What those monuments stand for

tags: Confederate Monuments

Manisha Sinha, the Draper Chair in American History at University of Connecticut, is the author of “The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition.”

There is one thing that the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rallied to the defense of Robert E. Lee’s statue in Charlottesville got right: They understood the historical meaning of Confederate monuments.

Historians have long argued that the Confederacy was founded to protect, expand and perpetuate racial slavery and that its leaders, military and political, are seriously tainted by that legacy. That hasn’t stopped defenders from peddling the idea that Confederate monuments are innocuous symbols of southern history.

Charlottesville revealed the power of Confederate monuments to unite racists and fascists of all stripes, who correctly look to the Confederacy for historical antecedents. Not only was the Confederacy founded on the idea of racial inequality, but monuments to it arose at moments in American history when southerners sought to defend white supremacy. With the fall of Reconstruction, the brief period after the Civil War when an attempt was made to grant black citizenship and found an interracial democracy, the white South sought to undo these gains.

After the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, newly emancipated black people were left to the tender mercies of sore losers. A program of racist terror enforced by groups like the Ku Klux Klan, laws to disfranchise African Americans, and the institution of racial segregation, sharecropping, debt peonage, and convict labor went hand in hand with raising monuments to the Confederacy.

The Confederate banner became a part of some southern states’ flags during the civil rights movement as a symbol of “massive resistance” to desegregation and black voting. The NAACP had long instituted a boycott of South Carolina for flying the Confederate flag on state grounds — but it took the 2015 murder of worshipers at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston by a Confederate flag-wielding white supremacist for the state government to finally act. ...

Read entire article at NY Daily News

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