Confederate Monuments & Memorials

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Day 80: Stay Safe Minnesota

Columbus has long been a contentious figure in history for his treatment of the Indigenous communities he encountered and for his role in the violent colonization at their expense.

The Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher writes ‘Confederate statues: In 2020, a renewed battle in America’s enduring Civil War‘. “This country’s seemingly eternal conflict — born in slavery and kept alive through a century and a half of battles over race, civil rights and American identity — has flared once more, focusing yet again on the symbols of the bloodiest war ever fought on U.S. soil, a war between brothers. It took less than two weeks for the grass-roots response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who was asphyxiated when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck, to morph from peaceful protests, bouts of burning and looting and nationwide demands for reform of police behavior into a concerted attack on symbols of the Confederacy” writes Marc Fisher.

Confederacy

The Wikipedia describes Confederacy as “The Confederate States of America (CSA or C.S.), commonly referred to as the Confederacy, was an unrecognized republic that warred against the United States during the American Civil War.”

Confederate Monuments & Memorials

The Wikipedia lists Confederate monuments and memorials that were “established as public displays and symbols of the Confederate States of America (CSA), Confederate leaders, or Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War. Part of the commemoration of the American Civil War, these symbols include monuments and statues, flags, holidays and other observances, and the names of schools, roads, parks, bridges, counties, cities, lakes, dams, military bases, and other public works.”

Controversy & Debate

The BBC News writes: “Its been over 150 years since the last shots were fired in the US Civil War, but a debate still rages over how history will remember the losing side. Hundreds of statues dedicated to the Confederacy – the southern states which revolted against the US government – exist all throughout the United States, and often serve as an offensive reminder of America’s history of slavery and racial oppression. Most defenders of Confederate symbols say they are not meant to memorialise slavery, which the South fought to preserve.”

From Wikipedia: “For decades in the U.S., there have been isolated incidents of removal of Confederate monuments and memorials. Several U.S. states have passed laws to hinder or prohibit further removals. The removals were driven by the belief that the monuments glorify white supremacy and memorialize a treasonous government whose founding principle was the perpetuation and expansion of slavery.”

” The vast majority of these Confederate monuments were built during the era of Jim Crow laws (1877–1964). Detractors claim that they were not built as memorials but as a means of intimidating African Americans and reaffirming white supremacy. The monuments have thus become highly politicized; according to Eleanor Harvey, a senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and a scholar of Civil War history: “If white nationalists and neo-Nazis are now claiming this as part of their heritage, they have essentially co-opted those images and those statues beyond any capacity to neutralize them again”. In a counter-reaction to the movement to remove Confederate monuments, some Southern states have passed state laws restricting or prohibiting altogether the removal or alteration of public monuments.”

In Axios, reporter Fadel Allassan writes: “Confederate monuments become flashpoints in protests against racism. Protests against police violence and racism have sharpened the focus of a long-standing debate about the place for and relevance of Confederate-era monuments and iconography.”

Writing for The Atlantic opinion article, Retired U.S. Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus writes: ” Take the Confederate Names Off Our Army Bases. It is time to remove the names of traitors like Benning and Bragg from our country’s most important military installations.”

Some battles over monuments will be resolved in courtrooms, some in state capitols, some at the ballot box. This week, they are being resolved on the streets.

Marc Fisher, The Washington Post

St. Paul, Minnesota

In MPR News, The Associated Press and MPR News Staff write: “Protesters in Minnesota on Wednesday pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus outside the State Capitol amid continuing anger over the police killing of George Floyd. The protesters threw a rope around the 10-foot bronze statue and pulled it off its stone pedestal. The protesters, led by Mike Forcia with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said they consider Columbus a symbol of genocide against Native Americans.”

Source: Screenshot from the MPR News.

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, said in a press conference: “I’m not going to perform for folks. I’m not going to feign sadness. I will not shed a tear over the loss of a statue that honored someone that by of his own admission sold 9- and 10-year-old girls into sex slavery. So, let us start there.”

“Current process for deciding what is displayed at the Capitol is ‘not well defined’ and needs to get better and more accessible” added Flanagan.

In CNN, reporter Leah Asmelash writes: “Statues of Christopher Columbus are being dismounted across the country. As racial reckoning occurs across the country following the death of George Floyd, many Confederate statues — which some consider racist symbols of America’s dark legacy of slavery — have been removed. “

Columbus has long been a contentious figure in history for his treatment of the Indigenous communities he encountered and for his role in the violent colonization at their expense.

Source: CNN

For NPR/MPR News, reporter Debbie Elliott writes: “Protests Are Bringing Down Confederate Monuments Around The South. New attention from people protesting police brutality and racial injustice is changing the way cities and campuses in the American South regard symbols of white supremacy. On Monday, Alabama’s flagship state university took down memorials to Confederate soldiers. The University of Alabama removed plaques honoring students who served in the Confederate Army and student cadet corps.”

More Statues Coming Down

In CNN, reporters Alisha Ebrahimji & Artemis Moshtaghian write: “Confederate statues are coming down following George Floyd’s death. The death of George Floyd is leading to the removal — by protesters in some cases and city leaders in others — of contentious statues that have riled some residents for decades, if not longer. Some say they mark history and honor heritage. Others argue they are racist symbols of America’s dark legacy of slavery. While some cities have already made efforts to remove them, others have passed laws to protect them.” Some of the monuments that have been removed over the last few weeks include:

  • Richmond, Virginia. A crowd of protesters in Richmond brought down the statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, on Wednesday night, according to CNN affiliate WRIC.
  • Louisville, Kentucky. The John Breckenridge Castleman monument, a statue of a Confederate soldier in the heart of downtown, was removed, according to an online statement from Mayor Greg Fischer.
  • Jacksonville, Florida. Crews in Hemming Park in downtown Jacksonville on Tuesday morning took down a 122-year-old statue and plaque that honored fallen Confederate soldiers, according to CNN affiliate WJAX.
  • Birmingham, Alabama. Demonstrators at Linn Park attempted to remove a 115-year-old monument during a protest on May 31. Mayor Randall Woodfin arrived at the scene, telling the demonstrators he would “finish the job” for them.
  • Montgomery, Alabama. About 90 miles south of Birmingham, demonstrators tore down a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee that stood in front of Lee High School in Montgomery on June 1, according to CNN affiliate WSFA.
  • Nashville, Tennessee. A controversial statue of Edward Carmack, a former US senator and newspaper owner known for attacking civil rights advocates like Ida B. Wells, was carried away from the city’s Capitol grounds on Monday, according to CNN affiliate WKRN.
  • Alexandria, Virginia. Crews in historic Old Town Alexandria removed a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier named “Appomattox” last Tuesday morning.The memorial was erected in 1889 to honor Confederate soldiers from the Virginia city.
  • Mobile, Alabama. The city removed the statue of Confederate Adm. Raphael Semmes from downtown early Friday and took it to a secure location, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a tweet.

According to CNN reporting, there are 10 military posts are named for these Confederate commanders, which the Army is thinking about changing. “The 10 Southern officers — all but one a general — who fought to preserve slavery and the posts that carry their names. The Civil War — which cost more than 600,000 lives — led to the abolition of slavery but did not eliminate the systemic racism that persists in the country today.”

Black Lives Matter Movement

In the USA Today, Wenei Philimon Trevor Hughes Marco della Cava write: “Will the Black Lives Matter movement finally put an end to Confederate flags and statues? In the past week, public officials, military leaders and sports executives have made moves to take down Confederate statues and ban the Confederate flag, iconography that remains inextricably linked to the Southern cause that launched the Civil War: the preservation of a way of life anchored to slavery. While such efforts have flared in recent years, historians say the Black Lives Matter protest movement once again sweeping the nation after Floyd’s death has catapulted the issue to a place of unprecedented visibility that is likely to have lasting effects.”

Bristol, UK

In CNN Style, Jack Guy writes: “Britain’s imperialist monuments face a bitter reckoning amid Black Lives Matter protests. Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol, UK, pulled down a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston and rolled it through the streets before dumping it, unceremoniously, into the River Avon. Some applauded the move, while others decried what they called “mob rule.” Around the country, various local authorities have already started to act to remove statues or consider their future. Tearing down statues is a time-honored form of protest, from the toppling of statues of Lenin when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 to the fall of Saddam Hussein’s monument in Baghdad in 2003.”

London, UK

In The Washington Post, reporter William Booth writes: “Winston Churchill statue is put in a protective box. Workers boarded up an iconic Winston Churchill statue outside the Palace of Westminster to protect the public art work from further vandalism. Last weekend, protesters tagged the wartime prime minister with graffiti calling him a racist. Like the United States, Britain finds itself facing anti-racism demonstrations, in the middle of a culture war, amid a pandemic and an economic meltdown.”

This note post is part of learning race & inequality in US series inspired by recent protests in US and around the world. Cover Image Source: MPR NEWS

Coronavirus Pandemic Watch

According to the MDH latest tally (as of June 13, 11 a.m.) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 30,172 (out of 407,992 tested) with 1,283 deaths. According to Johns Hopkins database (as of June 13, 5:30 a.m.) there are 2,048,986 confirmed covid19 infection with 114,669 deaths. Globally the covid19 virus has infected 7,669,872 with 426,165 deaths.