In these divisive times more than ever, we had better listen to what they have to tell us. It’s treasonous. We also know that most of America’s founders from the South were slave owners who codified slavery in the Constitution. The Confederate flag isn’t just offensive. The creation of Confederate statues, the reappearance of Confederate flags and the Confederate naming of Army installations worked in tandem with the growth of the Ku Klux Klan to send a clear message that black people would never be accepted as full citizens of the United States. They were created by white supremacists. The monument to Confederate Colonel Francis S. Bartow was erected after First Manassas but was destroyed before or during Second Manassas. William C. Davis’s reflections about Confederate monuments and places named after Confederate leaders in “The Right Way to Remember the Confederacy” (Review, July 11) partly parallel those of Charles Francis Adams over 100 years ago (“Shall Cromwell Have a Statue?”). The recent uprisings following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Rayshard Brooks have reignited an old debate about the significance of Confederate monuments. The United Daughters of the Confederacy, founded in the … Robert E. Lee is my relative. County … During the 1940s, the Confederate flag became a more prominent feature in public spaces, coinciding with African Americans’ efforts to expand their political rights during and after World War II. The Confederate States of America was therefore a product of Southern slaveholders. They fail to acknowledge that Confederate monuments and symbols emerged in an effort to intimidate black Americans and uphold a revisionist — and racist — version of history. To erase a flag is to erase history. According to the AHA, most Confederate monuments were erected during the late-nineteenth and early … For all its ambition, the Confederate States of America crumbled as quickly as it began. In these public symbols, white supremacists upheld the myth that the Confederacy was a noble cause, rather than a failed revolt to maintain slavery. These symbols serve one primary purpose — to honor figures of the past who upheld an undemocratic vision of America. https://www.wsj.com/articles/destroying-confederate-monuments-betrays-history-1437337792. Two years later, images of the Confederate flag dominated the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which resulted in the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and the injury of at least 19 others. NBC News reported Wednesday that Trump instructed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to re-erect a statue of Gen. Albert Pike, the only Confederate monument in … The Veterans Memorial Preservation Act, a federal law passed in 2003, already makes it a crime to destroy or attempt to destroy a plaque, monument or statue "commemorating the service" of … The mere idea that Lincoln might end slavery — even though he made no such promise in 1860 — terrified Southerners who wanted to maintain their way of life. Watch: Amanda Gorman Reads ‘The Hill We Climb’ at Biden Inauguration, Trump Hints at Comeback as His Presidency Ends, Macy's coupon - Sign up to get 25% off next order, $20 off $200 during sale - Saks Fifth Avenue coupon, Save 25% on Quilted Puffer Vest for Start of the Year Sale at Old Navy, News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced his intention to remove his state’s most prominent statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, which … Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong. I’m black. Indianapolis. The memorials were encouraged by national political leaders as a means of telling the children of Confederate soldiers that their fathers weren’t traitors but patriots who nobly sacrificed for a failed but honestly held vision of what America should be. Nevertheless, Adams predicted that Robert E. Lee would someday rightly have a statue in Washington, as Oliver Cromwell, “the traitor, the usurper, the execrable murderer” of King Charles I, already had one in Westminster. Activists across the nation are calling for the removal of these monuments and the renaming of Army bases, emphasizing the role these symbols play in promoting white supremacist ideas. Relying on a logic that mirrored the thinking of Southern slaveholders, many defenders then pointed to Southern “pride,” “heritage” or “culture” and the need to “preserve history” in an attempt to explain away the attachment to these racist icons and historical figures. During the Jim Crow era, as African Americans asserted their political authority and demanded an expansion of citizenship rights, white supremacists responded with acts of violence and intimidation. One More Confederate Monument to Destroy: The Electoral College. On June 8, the city began removing a monument that … The new nation that emerged out of the Civil War in 1865 was no perfect union. Like most good myths, it had a greater purpose: to show the families of the defeated that they were once again as fully American as the victors. The whole point of Confederate monuments is to celebrate white supremacy. by Harold Meyerson. It also undercuts the argument of those who now claim they only want to preserve history. That monument was recently toppled by protesters. It’s learning from it. Roof knew this. Months before the rally, the Charlottesville City Council had voted to remove the statue, and plans were underway to rename the park where it was located. The early 20th century witnessed a widespread campaign to erect Confederate monuments and statues. The nation that Confederate President Jefferson Davis set out to build was inherently undemocratic: It aimed to exclude black people from the body politic. A crowd gathers at the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis after it was pulled down off of its pedestal on Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA., on June 10, 2020. This was no mere coincidence. Confederate statues shouldn’t be vandalized, but they should go. That claim may make for good rhetoric, but it obscures one crucial fact: Confederate monuments, as well as Confederate-named Army bases, are modern inventions meant to distort history and celebrate a racist past. The leaders often portrayed on them remind some of Americans’ capacity for hate. Destroying Confederate Monuments Betrays History To erase a flag is to erase history. Removal of our Confederate memorials stands to cost our nation a great deal. Each of them had earned his place in history, along with the men who fought for and against them at Gettysburg and Naseby. In an August 2017 statement on the monuments controversy, the American Historical Association(AHA) said that to remove a monument "is not to erase history, but rather to alter or call attention to a previous interpretation of history." He had as good a right as anyone to opine on war memorials. A 35-foot-tall monument to Confederate soldiers in Garfield Park in Indianapolis was … So did participants of the Unite the Right rally. But on a national level, few Americans then wanted to commemorate those who lost the fight to maintain slavery. White women were instrumental in raising funds to build these Confederate monuments. It represented everything white slaveholders desired — a nation where black people would forever be in chains, toiling day in and day out on the plantation to line the pockets of white southerners. The Confederate monument in downtown Huntsville was vandalized by protesters on June 9. Destroying Confederate monuments isn’t ‘erasing’ history. If symbols associated with past injustices ought to be erased, what about monuments that honor Union heroes who participated in the slaughter of Native Americans? The new order enforces laws prohibiting the desecration of public monuments, the vandalism of government property, and recent acts of violence, … The building of the Confederacy — based on long-standing ideas of white supremacy — began long before the Civil War. Ideally, they should be removed by state and local governments, not demonstrators; if governments remove them, … 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8, Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved, The Right Way to Remember the Confederacy, Biden Unveils Plan to Curb Covid-19 in His First 100 Days, The U.S. Rejoins the Paris Climate Accord: What’s Next. ", Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences, undemocratic: It aimed to exclude black people from the body politic, A century later, the city’s historic Black Wall Street faces erasure by White developers, Examining systemic racism through the lens of his life, Understanding racism and inequality in America, Subscribe to About US to read the latest on race and identity. President Trump, along with many other leaders, has insisted that these sweeping changes would somehow erase history or “bring people apart,” as Trump told the Wall Street Journal this week. These old Confederate monuments remind us that we are capable of both tremendous magnanimity and horrendous folly. Taking down the Confederate flag and hiding or destroying it doesn’t help the American psyche. We know this because the woke mob isn’t just going after Confederate statues; it’s going after monuments and namesakes that span from Christopher … The AHA stated that most monuments were erected "without anything resembling a democratic process," and recommended that it was "time to reconsider these decisions." In Richmond, for example, a Confederate heritage group installed a monument of Davis in 1907. The Confederate flag, which Roof proudly displayed in the weeks leading up to his violent rampage, and the Confederate monument that neo-Nazis passionately defended all represent the failed Confederate States of America — a short-lived proslavery republic formed in 1861 on the cusp of the Civil War. Or, through revision of that which has occurred in the past will I be teaching a watered-down, filtered “Disney” version of history, designed to appeal to the masses and customized to offend none? Indeed, the period of Reconstruction, while brief, offered a glimpse of the political possibilities for black people in the United States. However, that the monuments were placed at all shouts to the world of America’s capacity for forgiveness. Just the way these symbols have been used in recent years underscores their intended purpose in American society. As the nation underwent even more significant political changes during the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of new Confederate monuments, statues and symbols were erected. These monuments, and the parallel Union solider monuments that dot the Northeast, advanced a conscious and ultimately successful program of national reconciliation. The rise of these monuments was a concerted effort among white supremacists to challenge black progress — and revise American history to do it. The words "Black Lives Matter" spray painted on a monument to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va. June 25, 2015. Gens. Confederate statues and statues of other historical figures, including slave traders and Christopher Columbus, are being toppled throughout the U.S. … Several major Army bases were named after Confederate soldiers then, too, including Fort Pickett, Va. (1942), named after Major General George E. Pickett, and Fort Rucker, Ala. (1942), named after Confederate officer Edmund Rucker. Five years ago this week, white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and mercilessly gunned down nine black parishioners. The most important news stories of the day, curated by Post editors and delivered every morning. Today’s defenders adopt the same logic. Here’s What We Know. It was not until decades later that something else emerged that prompted the country to pine for Confederate monuments and other symbols: black political progress. This may be a myth, but it is what the Confederate leaders themselves believed. Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. The other early monuments were Union monuments at Battle of Rowlett’s Station in Munfordville, Kentucky in January 1862 for … At the end of the Civil War, those who chose to remember Davis and his “lost cause” pushed for the creation of memorials. A Gwinnett community is speaking up, calling for the removal of the Confederate monument at the Gwinnett County historic courthouse. https://www.foxnews.com/us/statue-monument-vandalized-torn-down-protest As the title of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s book says, there is “No Future Without Forgiveness.”. Adams, descendant of two presidents and heir to a fierce antislavery tradition, was the Civil War commander of the African-American 5th Massachusetts Cavalry. Within only a matter of years, it was defeated. As in Germany, all Confederate monuments should be removed. They held on to these symbols precisely because they do understand the history. The Coronavirus Is Mutating. The latest battle over the Confederate flag isn’t happening where you’d expect, The Tulsa Massacre: A century later, the city’s historic Black Wall Street faces erasure by White developers, Kamala Harris: The Black women who paved the way, George Floyd’s America: Examining systemic racism through the lens of his life, Resources: Understanding racism and inequality in America, Full coverage: Race & Reckoning | Newsletter: Subscribe to About US to read the latest on race and identity. Don’t destroy the Confederate statues (“No rush to find homes for Baltimore’s Confederate monuments,” Sept. 27). Shouldn’t we consider purging all of their monuments from the public square? The Confederate battle flag has now been banned from NASCAR events, Confederate monuments are being removed or destroyed and the Army is considering whether or not to change the name of bases named after Confederate commanders. Is it possible going forward that this nation might respect history (with all of its inherent flaws, indignities and inequities) and forgo the tragic march toward political correctness? Southern defenders of Gen. Robert E. Lee point to his pre-war condemnation of slavery as an evil institution and note that he freed his slaves in 1862 before the Emancipation Proclamation. This will, of course, demand compassion—and in the end, loving forgiveness. They could be used as … Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday compared Americans dismantling Confederate monuments with members of the Taliban who destroyed … Steve … Slaves owned by Ulysses S. Grant’s wife in Missouri were not freed until 1865. Adams saw the South’s secession as attempted revolution and Robert E. Lee as, legally, a traitor, just as George Washington, who led an earlier revolution, was “indisputably” a traitor in the same sense. We must not remove them because some of their symbols may be hijacked by the evil that will always be with us. And they function as a balm for white supremacists who long to return to a period when Americans regarded black people as property. Every symbol of the Confederacy — flags, monuments and statues and the names of Confederate soldiers on military bases — upholds white supremacy. Indianapolis, Ind. However, it was beginning to move toward a path for freedom and democracy for all. It should be respected, not sanitized. By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, Keisha N. Blain is an associate professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the multi-prize-winning book, "Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom. At a Saturday campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump came to the defense of … … The current debate so far has failed to note the implications of when these monuments were built and, more important, why. In the days following the massacre, images surfaced on the Internet showing Roof posing with the Confederate flag as he spouted white supremacist rants on his social media accounts. But it was the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 that ultimately set the wheels in motion. Not long after Lincoln’s election, seven states seceded from the Union, anticipating the end of the slave regime in the United States. Gordon remains, but Confederate statues across the southeast are falling, including the court-ordered removal of a 112- year-old obelisk from the Decatur square June 12. ... For anyone who still wonders why Confederate monuments need to come down, let me refer you to a famous line from the great bard of the white South, William Faulkner. Like many Confederate military monuments, this one dates from long after the war, from 1924, and was made in New York, primarily by Henry Merwin Shrady, best known for his monument … By June 1861, four more states had seceded. “[Our new government’s] foundations are laid,” Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens explained in his 1861 Cornerstone speech, “its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”. In effect, these monuments and symbols already do the work of erasing history — the very thing their defenders now accuse protesters of doing by demanding their removal. Most of the memorials to Confederate leaders and soldiers were placed from around 1895 to 1915, when surviving veterans of the Civil War were passing on, and the war itself was passing from living memory. William J. Cooper says removing Confederate monuments is a mistake. Amid a national uprising for racial justice and a deadly pandemic that’s disproportionately impacting Black, Latinx and Native communities, President Donald Trump is promising lengthy prison sentences for anyone who destroys or dismantles a monument to a slave-owning president or leader of the Confederacy. Honoring a revisionist history of the Confederacy is not only repugnant. A group of neo-Nazis who stormed the University of Virginia’s campus aimed to defend the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, who led the traitorous army during the Civil War. If so, history’s intrinsic and valuable lessons may be lost forever to the ages, and we will almost certainly emerge a lesser people for it. William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan applied the same tactics of total warfare against Native Americans for two decades after the Civil War that they used in marches across Georgia and the Shenandoah Valley. In the debate over the Confederate flag, we have to dig deeper, and we have to find not political rhetoric, but compassion, and then perhaps we can find a healthier way to integrate this flag in American consciousness. The widespread growth of Confederate monuments and statues — and the practice of naming military bases after soldiers who had fought against the U.S. Army — coincided with periods of political transformation in the United States. The memorial landscape of our history is itself a history. Defenders of the memorials are the ones trying to forget the past. 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