The Week in Confederate Heritage

We begin this week’s look at the nationwide retreat of confederate heritage with this article from Milledgeville, Georgia. “Someone vandalized a confederate monument on South Jefferson Street in Milledgeville in the past week. The hands and face of the statue were spray painted black. The city says they’ve filed a police report. … ‘Those that really feel strongly about the statues know that it needs to be removed,’ says Baldwin County NAACP Chapter President Cynthia Ward Edwards. She says they got a call and learned about the damage last week. ‘We took a ride to look at the statue, and so the Confederate soldiers have turned into — I’m assuming — black soldiers,’ she explains. Ward Edwards says the NAACP have been talking with city leaders about moving the statue because it concerns them. ‘Most of the statues are removed from other counties and states as well, so why not Milledgeville, Baldwin County? Why are they still here?’ she asks. ‘I’m sure there’s another home that we can find for those statues as well.’ She says now, she hopes the statue will be taken down after the vandalism. ‘It carries a lot of weight, and it’s carried a lot of weight for years for the entire community– not just the NAACP or the African Americans, so we’re working closely with the mayor under her leadership to see what direction we need to go in,’ Ward Edwards says. Dorothy Brown is a former instructor at Georgia College. ‘I don’t like vandalism,’ she says. ‘I don’t think it serves any purpose.’ Brown says the statue was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in1912 for the women and children who lost loved ones who served. ‘People are not taught history anymore, and that’s what’s so sad,’ she says. Brown says the statue is a reminder to not repeat history and should be respected. ‘It diminishes the person who does do the vandalism, and now someone has to clean it up.’ Adriana Kemp, 23,  has lived in Milledgeville her entire life. ‘It doesn’t really make me that surprised. To be honest, I don’t really care,’ she says. Kemp says she passes by the statue every day on her way to work but never paid any attention to it. She says she sees the vandalism as a form of protest. ‘I interpreted it as a way to say that Black people fought in these wars, too -– whether by force or voluntarily,’ she explains. ‘Those who are upset about it, your reasons are totally valid.’  She says she’s against vandalism, but it happens a lot nowadays. ‘If you’re doing it as a message, then there’s better ways to get that message across,’ Kemp says.”

Last week we read about a banner flown by a white supremacist group in Jacksonville, Florida. This article continues that story. “When a group supporting Confederate monuments flew a banner Sunday over TIAA Bank Field before the Jaguars game, it drove home that a year after City Council pledged to make a decision on the future of a Confederate monument in Springfield Park, none of the long-promised meetings in a ‘community conversation’ has happened. Faced with Mayor Lenny Curry’s call for removing Confederate monuments from city parks, Jacksonville City Council President Sam Newby and Vice President Terrance Freeman both voted in January 2022 for a plan to conduct a series of meetings around Jacksonville about whether such monuments should remain on city property. Newby took no action to schedule any of those ‘community conversation’ meetings during his term as president that ended in June, even though the council’s written goal in its strategic plan was to have a decision by July. Newby then handed off the task to Freeman, who took over as council president on July 1. Freeman has convened no meetings about Confederate monuments.”

The article continues, “Wells Todd, a leader of the Take ’Em Down Jax group, said City Council is using the prospect of staging public meetings as a way to avoid a vote on the monuments while not actually having the meetings. ‘A lot of them are afraid, I believe, to take a stand to remove these statues,’ he said. With no action by City Council on the ‘Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy’ monument in Springfield Park, it will likely be an issue for some candidates in the spring election for mayor and City Council, said Michael Binder, a University of North Florida political science professor. He said the prospect of having a community conversation has allowed City Council to repeatedly delay a decision, which ends up being a win for supporters of keeping the monuments where they stand. He said the plane that flew over the stadium Sunday runs counter to the strategy the pro-monument supporters have been using to wait for the issue to eventually ‘fall off the map.’ ‘The stunt they pulled only makes it harder for City Council members to ignore the issue and let it go,’ he said. Curry reacted Sunday in a tweet that ‘there is no place for hate of any kind in our city’ and he reaffirmed his support for removing Confederate monuments from city-owned land.”

According to the article, “Todd said the banner flown by the plane over the football stadium ‘should have been an eye-opener for a lot of people that we’re in the Deep South’ and the monuments in Jacksonville and other cities went up across the South during the era of Jim Crow segregation. ‘They were raised to send a message to the African-American community that whites were in complete control over Southern states and the false ideology of white supremacy would be the order of the day,’ he said.”

The Mathews County Confederate Monument outside the 1830 courthouse in Mathews County, Va. The county board of supervisors plans to vote to deed the land under the statue to a private group in an effort to keep the statue up. (Gregory S. Schneider/The Washington Post)

Next is this article from Mathews County, Virginia. “The Mathews County Board of Supervisors is moving ahead with unusual plans to deed the public land under a Confederate statue on the historic courthouse green to a private preservation group, aiming to prevent any future residents from taking it down. The county has called a special public hearing for Tuesday night at the local high school as it prepares to transfer the property. It was unclear whether a final vote is also planned for Tuesday, but the board has already drafted a deed and voted to waive county subdivision rules to allow it to carve out a 21-by-22-foot plot of public land under the statue. Supervisors have been exploring the step all year as a novel way of protecting Confederate heritage at a time when other localities around Virginia and the South are removing statues as symbols of racism. An isolated community of farms and fishing villages along the Chesapeake Bay at the tip of Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, Mathews has about 8,600 residents, about 8 percent of whom are Black. The local chapter of the NAACP has threatened a lawsuit over any effort to transfer the property, and some residents have spoken out against the idea of giving public land to a private group — let alone protecting a Confederate monument in perpetuity. Officials with the state Department of Historic Resources said they are not aware of any other locality in Virginia considering such a step. ‘There is no public mandate for such an unprecedented and irreversible transfer,’ county commonwealth’s attorney Tom C. Bowen III wrote in a letter to the Post-Gazette newspaper and also posted on Facebook. Bowen said he was speaking as a private citizen, not in his official capacity. ‘The property should not be transferred to a private corporation in which the [board of supervisors] and the public do not have input.’ Confederate memorials around the state have faced a variety of fates since the General Assembly voted in 2020 to allow communities to take them down. Several have been preserved in place — a handful of those because they still belong to the organization that donated them decades ago. But the land on which they stand remains public.”

The article continues, “Albemarle County donated its statue to a Shenandoah Valley battlefield. Richmond has given about a dozen statues to the its Black History Museum, which has loaned one to the city’s Valentine museum and several others to an art museum in California. Charlottesville voted to give its statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee to a museum to melt down and turn into new artwork. Last year, a Mathews County referendum on whether to remove its statue found more than 80 percent of voters in favor of leaving it in place. Despite that show of support, Confederate heritage groups and the four White members of the five-member board of supervisors declared that the monument was under siege by changing public attitudes. ‘I think all of us here would’ve liked to entertain the idea that we could just leave it just like it sits, go back to what we used to call normal,’ board chairman Paul Hudgins said during a Nov. 22 meeting. ‘That would be all well and good if the monument wasn’t under attack.’ In recent weeks, supervisors had the county install a surveillance camera aimed at the statue, a generic figure of a soldier atop a column, which has not been defaced by protesters. The live feed now airs on a video screen in the 1830 courthouse, providing a real-time look at the monument that stands a few feet outside the building as the board conducts its business. At a fiery public hearing in September, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans monitored the door of the courthouse and let members of the public in or out. County supervisors said at that time that they would not deed the monument to a Confederate heritage group. Chapters of the SCV and the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the monument in 1912, but those chapters have long since gone defunct. A modern chapter of the SCV, which had rallied to protect the monument in the aftermath of 2017’s deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, came forward earlier this year and offered to take ownership. That provoked a public outcry and the threat of legal action from the NAACP and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs. The board moved forward anyway, commissioning an official survey of the property. Late last month, the board called a special meeting to take up whether to waive a county subdivision ordinance that requires property to be a larger size before it can be carved into smaller lots.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered the bases named after Confederate generals to be renamed by the end of 2023.Credit…Brian Snyder/Reuters

Finally, we have this article discussing how US Army bases were named for traitors. “Nine southern Army bases are named for treasonous Confederate generals who fought against the United States to preserve slavery and white supremacy. All nine will soon have new names. A commission established by Congress recommended a list of distinguished Army heroes for the new base names, and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III recently ordered the changes by the end of 2023. The bases were originally named as part of a movement to glorify the Confederacy and advance the Lost Cause myth that the Civil War was fought over ‘states’ rights’ and not slavery. Hundreds of symbols of the Confederacy have been removed across the country since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. These Confederate generals were at first pariahs after the Civil War but were ultimately given amnesty for their crimes. By the height of the Jim Crow era, they were idolized by many Americans, particularly in the South. By 1917, Army policy specifically said bases that housed Southerners should be named for Confederate commanders, according to documents provided by Army historians.” The article then goes on to discuss each of those nine confederates.

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