The Week in Confederate Heritage

This post is a day later than I usually like, because I spent Sunday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. watching the stage production of “Hamilton,” which was a terrific performance. The cast sang their hearts out and did a fantastic job with a brilliant play. It was also a wonderful opportunity to spend the day with my daughter.

Five years after they were removed from public display in Baltimore, four Confederate statues occupy a corner of a Department of Transportation maintenance lot off Pulaski Highway in the Pulaski Industrial Area. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

We begin with this article from Baltimore, Maryland. “Tucked into the corner of an East Baltimore impound lot teeming with discarded lampposts and street signs, four Confederate-linked monuments have sat for five years since they were removed from public parks around the city in the middle of the night. Ever since that night Aug. 17, 2017, when they were hauled off to the lot and hidden away, city officials and historians have debated what to do with the bronze statues erected to honor Confederate figures. No home emerged until a Los Angeles visual art space called LAXART asked to borrow them for a new exhibit. The large-scale exhibit, called Monuments, will open in the fall of 2023 and places contemporary art created by renowned Black artists alongside decommissioned Confederate statues removed from American cities after the 2015 killing of churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist and the deadly neo-Nazi rally Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.”

The article goes on to say, “The city’s law office still needs to approve a loan agreement with the museum before the statues, some weighing 7 to 14 tons, are loaded onto a truck and shipped to California. Baltimore is not paying any transportation costs. … Then-Mayor Catherine Pugh in 2017 ordered the four statues, which were installed from 1887 to 1948, to be taken down from their pedestals around the city “quickly and quietly,” she said at the time. They included the Lee-Jackson Monument located in Wyman Park Dell, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women’s Monument on West University Parkway, and the Roger B. Taney Monument in Mount Vernon. … The message the statues conveyed to Baltimore residents about slavery and the Civil War was wrong, Holcomb said, and the statues also posed a safety risk to people who threatened to pull them down.”

The article continues, “Five years after the Baltimore statues’ removal, the monuments in the city-owned lot off Pulaski Highway in the Pulaski Industrial Area are secured in a metal fence and Jersey barrier enclosure. An art conservator inspected the statues in 2021 and determined each was in good condition, according to Monica Lewis, a city spokesperson. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, though, still is marked by red paint thrown on it by protesters before it was removed. Holcomb estimated that the city received 24 offers to use the monuments. The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation asked each person or group how they planned to interpret the statues and most wanted to use them to positively convey the Lost Cause myth that the Civil War was an honorable fight over states’ rights, rather than a war over slavery, and that Jackson and Lee were great soldiers, Holcomb said. ‘I think we’re starting to understand that Lee and Jackson were actually traitors,’ he said. … CHAP decided that LAXART was the best alternative use for the statues because it would help change the message of the monuments through artists’ interactions with them. The exhibit will feature educational talks, performances, activities and workshops from art historians, politicians, artists and activists. The contemporary art on display will feature existing and newly created paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos. The exhibition will also be on view at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. ‘A frequent argument against removing monuments from public space claims that doing so is ‘erasing history’; we intend to do quite the opposite by examining these objects in their entirety with historical depth and nuance,’ Hamza Walker wrote in a description of the upcoming exhibit. The loan will last a year or more for the four-month exhibit. After that, it is unclear where the monuments will go. Perhaps the exhibit will become successful and travel the country, Holcomb said, or maybe the bronze statues will be melted and recast to celebrate legendary Baltimoreans, as Mayor Brandon Scott proposed when he was a City Council member. But for now, the Maryland Historical Trust, which has an easement on three of the four monuments, does not want the statues destroyed, Holcomb said.”

People dance on a Confederate flag at the annual Festa Confederada, or Confederate Festival, in Brazil. Mario Tama/Getty Images

This article from Brazil tells us, “A new municipal law could mark the end of an annual celebration of the Confederacy in rural Sao Paulo, Brazil, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Festa Confederada, or Confederate Festival, has been taking place in Santa Bárbara d’Oeste for the past four decades, The Christian Science Monitor reported. Thousands of defeated Confederates went into exile in Brazil, unwilling to abide by the Union’s victory and consequent emancipation of enslaved Black people, and set up a colony nearby Santa Bárbara d’Oeste. They bought hundreds of slaves who they forced to labor for them on cotton fields until 1888 when Brazil became the last nation in the Americas to ban slavery. Now, on the site of a cemetery for the colony, the descendants of the American Confederates host an annual festival. The festival includes men and women dancing in period costumes to country music. Attendees use ‘Confederate dollars’ to buy chicken and biscuits, according to The Christian Science Monitor. There are Confederate flags, including one of the world’s largest, on display at the festival, per The Washington Post. But a municipal law, which bans the use of racist symbols at public festivals, could end the festivities, according to the paper. A justification for the legislation passed last month specifically named the festival, per The Christian Science Monitor. The head of the Fraternidade Descendência Americana, a group that represents the descendants of Confederate families, told the paper that he opposes the new law because he believes the Confederate flag does not represent slavery. ‘”‘For us, the Confederate flag carries the symbolism of resistance to tyranny,'”‘ said João Padovez, per The Christian Science Monitor.”

A monument to Confederate settlers in Santa Barbara d’Oeste, Brazil. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The article goes on to say, “But activist Cláudia Monteiro da Rocha Ramos told the paper that the local chapter of Unegro, an anti-racism organization, is proposing that Confederate flags are replaced with the modern-day US flag. ‘After Charlottesville, [the US] debate about the flag resonated in Brazil,’ she said, per The Christian Science Monitor. Unegro started mobilizing after the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, The Washington Post reported. At the last Confederate Festival in 2019, the last one held because of COVID-19 cancelations, dozens of protesters gathered nearby to perform Afro-Brazilian dances, per The Christian Science Monitor.”

Next we look at this article from Florence County, South Carolina. “The Florence County Council on Thursday unanimously rescinded its vote to put a Confederate statue on public property. Council received outrage from the public and the Florence Branch of the NAACP after its decision last month to put a statue of William W. Harllee and his daughter, Florence in the courtyard of the Florence County Museum. Harllee was president of the Wilmington & Manchester Railroad and served as South Carolina’s lieutenant governor when it became the first state to leave the union. He signed of the Ordinance of Secession and the city and county are named for his daughter. ‘I am delighted today that the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee has rescinded their decision to place this statue at the Florence County Museum,’ Jerry Keith, president of the NAACP’s Florence Branch said of the update. Buddy Brand, vice chair of the council, read a letter from the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee requesting the council rescind its vote. The committee is made up of more than a dozen people, including sculptor Alex Palkovich, former city councilman Steve Powers and Gale Harllee Dixon, a descendent of Harllee’s brother. ‘The Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee respectfully requests that Florence County Council rescind their previous action,’ Brand said, reading the statement. ‘Our committee sends many thanks to the county council for their support of this historic work of art. It was never the intent of the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee to cause any division in this great and prosperous community where we live, work, play and enjoy life.’ According to the committee, more than $140,000 was raised for the statue, which has sat in storage since its creation.”

The article continues, “Though Harllee is often credited as Florence’s founder, historical documents show his involvement in the Wilmington & Manchester railroad in the Pee Dee ended nearly two decades before the town was chartered in 1871, and the company was dissolved in 1870. ‘The city of Florence was built on the back of the railroad- it was called the Magic City,’ Keith said. ‘Study the history of Florence, understand the history and understand that railroad was built on the backs of chattel slavery.’ Keith called the statue an affront to the African American community and said he is glad people spoke out against its installation on public property. ‘This is an example of people standing up for what is right,’ he said. Historical documents also show Harllee raised a brigade for Confederate service in 1860. Those soldiers were known as the ‘Pee Dee Legion’ or ‘Harllee’s Legion.’ “

This is also from the article: “Below is the full letter sent to council by the committee, dated Aug. 15.

“The year is 1852. The young daughter is Florence Henning Harllee, for whom the City and County of Florence are named. The father is William Wallace Harllee, who was a visionary. While his contemporaries in the 1850’s were bent upon preserving the agrarian economy that had brought enormous wealth to generations of South Carolinians and labor that it required, Harllee had a vision for the industrial age. He foresaw that future prosperity would come from the train lines, and industry and growth that they would bring. He was right! That is why Florence today is more prosperous than the older towns in the counties that surround us. Harllee made that pivot for us, and we today are the beneficiaries of his far-sightedness in founding the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad, and naming the Florence Depot after his daughter, Florence.

“This historic Harllee Memorial Sculpture, by Alex Palkovich, is more a monument to our beginning as a railroad town. As a work of art, it depicts a father/daughter admiring the new railroad being built through a pine forest, that is now our City and County of Florence.

“Out of enormous respect for our community and Florence County Council, the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee respectfully requests that Florence County Council rescind their previous action to place the historic sculpture in the Florence County Museum Courtyard. Our committee sends many thanks to county council for their support of this historic work of art. It was never the intent of the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee to cause any division in this great and prosperous community where we live, work, play, learn and enjoy life.”

“In 2018, the museum’s board voted not to display the statue.”

Screengrab from Mondale Robinson’s Aug. 21 Facebook livestream. From the article.

We next move to this article from North Carolina. “A North Carolina town watched live online as a bulldozer pushed down its Confederate monument. Mondale Robinson, the mayor of Enfield, North Carolina, took to Facebook to share a livestream as a Confederate monument in the town’s Randolph Park was demolished by a bulldozer on Sunday, Aug. 21. ‘Yes, sirs! Death to the Confederacy around here,’ Robinson said in the video as a bulldozer knocked the monument over. ‘Not in my town. Not on my watch.’ Enfield, North Carolina, is a town of about 2,300 situated about 70 miles northeast of Raleigh. The town’s board of commissioners voted 4-1 to remove the statue at an Aug. 15 meeting, according to The Daily Herald. ‘We voted for it to be gone. It’s gone,’ Robinson said in a separate livestream. ‘It’s just a dead statue to a dead idea: the Confederacy. … What once was can now be more space for people to do yoga, workout, or anything else except for come here and worship the Confederate flag or the Confederacy.’ The Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1928, according to a University of North Carolina Chapel Hill database. The 10-foot-tall marble statue bears a Confederate flag carved into the marble of its center column and was initially built as a memorial to Confederate and World War I soldiers. Over the years, various inscriptions have been added to the statue, including dedications in memory of veterans who fought in World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War, the database says.”

The article continues, “Despite its various inscriptions, the monument’s initial purpose was to honor Confederate soldiers, which Enfield does not support, Robinson said. ‘It is not a monument for all veterans. It was put up here in 1928,’ Robinson said. ‘None of those wars had been fought when that statue was put up. That statue was built for the Confederate. That’s why it was engraved on the front of it. There’s not a plaque attached to it about the Confederacy. The main purpose was to honor the soldiers who fought on the side of slavery.’ The demolition of Enfield’s statue is the latest in a series of Confederate statues or namesakes that have been removed or destroyed around the state and nationwide. Earlier this year, a committee of volunteers suggested that North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, which is named after Confederate soldier Gen. Braxton Bragg, be renamed to Fort Liberty. And in June, the Country Music Association banned Confederate flags from its CMA Fest, joining a growing list of other similar events that have banned the flag and related imagery. The remnants of the statue were roped off with police tape as of Monday morning to prevent anyone from taking leftover pieces of the monument, Robinson said in another post. ‘The only flag flying in this park is the United States of America’s flag. If that’s too hard for you to swallow, then you too are living in a time that is the wrong side of history. You, too, do not respect Black lives. But in this town, in this town, we do. We do,’ Robinson said.”

The monument was pushed down Sunday evening. (WITN)

This article on the same subject tells us the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the incident. It tells us, “Crime scene tape now surrounds the monument. Robinson said since it was a gift to the town, he feels they are well within their legal rights to have the monument removed. The latest data shows the town’s racial makeup is 85% Black. Robinson’s mother, Virginia Robinson, stopped by the park Monday morning, where the remnants of the monument remained. ‘It needed to be gone,’ Virginia Robinson said. ‘There’s nothing that he did wrong, he did nothing wrong. It was in the middle of the town, and he did what had to be did.’ The mayor’s mother says the park’s history also holds dark memories for the town. ‘Growing up, my mom would tell me: ‘don’t go to that park because the white people don’t want you there,’’ Virginia Robinson said. … Mayor Robinson says the statue was a gift to the Town of Enfield, and it is the town’s right to destroy a gift that is no longer relevant.”

One comment

  1. […] Mackey writes about what is going on with four Confederate-linked statues removed from public display in Baltimore, Maryland following pro-Confederate acts of homicidal […]

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