Confederate Monuments Don't Belong on the Landscapes of Government

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tags: Confederate Monuments



Karen L. Cox is a Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Author of "Dixie's Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and Preservation of Confederate Culture" (University Press of Florida, 2003) and "Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture" (UNC Press, 2011).

In the wake of the racially motivated murder of nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina's Emanuel AME Church, the chorus for removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol reached such a crescendo that Governor Nikki Haley finally conceded that the flag should be removed. In Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley went further and issued an executive order to remove all Confederate flags from that state's capitol grounds.

Now individuals are calling for the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces, citing that as relics of Jim Crow, their presence represents an affront to black citizens. Some historians have cautioned against sanitizing history by removing monuments, noting that by erasing these artifacts of segregation we "also risk losing sight" of their "insidious legacies."

Yet not all public spaces are alike, and when it comes to government-sanctioned spaces like local courthouses and state capitols, an argument can and should be made for their removal.

The vast majority of monuments that still cast a shadow over the southern landscape were built between the mid-1890s and the First World War. They were pet projects of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), the leading organization of southern white women, founded in 1894. Erecting monuments was one of many ways that these women sought to honor and vindicate the Confederate generation. 

Monuments were a costly enterprise, socially, politically and financially. Prior to the rise of the UDC, most Confederate monuments were placed in cemeteries, but beginning in the 1890s such monuments were intentionally placed in public spaces, especially on the grounds of state capitols and local courthouses. The message to all who set foot there was clear--this is a white man's government.  ...




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