The building of the Confederacy — based on long-standing ideas of white supremacy — began long before the Civil War. It’s learning from it. We also know that most of America’s founders from the South were slave owners who codified slavery in the Constitution. Robert E. Lee is my relative. 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 new nation that emerged out of the Civil War in 1865 was no perfect union. Taking down the Confederate flag and hiding or destroying it doesn’t help the American psyche. They were created by white supremacists. The Confederate flag isn’t just offensive. 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. They grasped these symbols not because they misunderstood American history. 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. The most important news stories of the day, curated by Post editors and delivered every morning. Indianapolis. … The current debate so far has failed to note the implications of when these monuments were built and, more important, why. Steve … 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 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. https://www.foxnews.com/us/statue-monument-vandalized-torn-down-protest 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. Each of them had earned his place in history, along with the men who fought for and against them at Gettysburg and Naseby. To erase a flag is to erase history. I’m black. 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 … So did participants of the Unite the Right rally. 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. Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday compared Americans dismantling Confederate monuments with members of the Taliban who destroyed … It should be respected, not sanitized. 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. 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. As the title of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s book says, there is “No Future Without Forgiveness.”. ... 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. These symbols serve one primary purpose — to honor figures of the past who upheld an undemocratic vision of America. His statues can’t come down soon enough. 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. We must not remove them because some of their symbols may be hijacked by the evil that will always be with us. A 35-foot-tall monument to Confederate soldiers in Garfield Park in Indianapolis was … 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? They held on to these symbols precisely because they do understand the history. 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. County … This may be a myth, but it is what the Confederate leaders themselves believed. 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?”). At a Saturday campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump came to the defense of … White women were instrumental in raising funds to build these Confederate monuments. As in Germany, all Confederate monuments should be removed. According to the AHA, most Confederate monuments were erected during the late-nineteenth and early … Indeed, the period of Reconstruction, while brief, offered a glimpse of the political possibilities for black people in the United States. And they function as a balm for white supremacists who long to return to a period when Americans regarded black people as property. 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. Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong. 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. But on a national level, few Americans then wanted to commemorate those who lost the fight to maintain slavery. Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? 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. 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. The Confederate States of America was therefore a product of Southern slaveholders. Adams, descendant of two presidents and heir to a fierce antislavery tradition, was the Civil War commander of the African-American 5th Massachusetts Cavalry. Ideally, they should be removed by state and local governments, not demonstrators; if governments remove them, … 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 United Daughters of the Confederacy, founded in the … Defenders of the memorials are the ones trying to forget the past. 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. Confederate statues and statues of other historical figures, including slave traders and Christopher Columbus, are being toppled throughout the U.S. … 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. The new order enforces laws prohibiting the desecration of public monuments, the vandalism of government property, and recent acts of violence, … 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. 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. This was no mere coincidence. On June 8, the city began removing a monument that … In these public symbols, white supremacists upheld the myth that the Confederacy was a noble cause, rather than a failed revolt to maintain slavery. The early 20th century witnessed a widespread campaign to erect Confederate monuments and statues. As the nation underwent even more significant political changes during the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of new Confederate monuments, statues and symbols were erected. 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. Gens. It’s treasonous. 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. https://www.wsj.com/articles/destroying-confederate-monuments-betrays-history-1437337792. At the end of the Civil War, those who chose to remember Davis and his “lost cause” pushed for the creation of memorials. These monuments, and the parallel Union solider monuments that dot the Northeast, advanced a conscious and ultimately successful program of national reconciliation. The whole point of Confederate monuments is to celebrate white supremacy. Shouldn’t we consider purging all of their monuments from the public square? 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. William J. Cooper says removing Confederate monuments is a mistake. Not long after Lincoln’s election, seven states seceded from the Union, anticipating the end of the slave regime in the United States. 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 … This will, of course, demand compassion—and in the end, loving forgiveness. 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 these divisive times more than ever, we had better listen to what they have to tell us. 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. 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. 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. Confederate statues shouldn’t be vandalized, but they should go. 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. Destroying Confederate monuments isn’t ‘erasing’ history. ", 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. 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. That monument was recently toppled by protesters. 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. 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. The Coronavirus Is Mutating. 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? The memorial landscape of our history is itself a history. But it was the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 that ultimately set the wheels in motion. The Confederate monument in downtown Huntsville was vandalized by protesters on June 9. Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 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. 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. However, that the monuments were placed at all shouts to the world of America’s capacity for forgiveness. However, it was beginning to move toward a path for freedom and democracy for all. In Richmond, for example, a Confederate heritage group installed a monument of Davis in 1907. Within only a matter of years, it was defeated. 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." For all its ambition, the Confederate States of America crumbled as quickly as it began. 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. 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 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. 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. These old Confederate monuments remind us that we are capable of both tremendous magnanimity and horrendous folly. The monument to Confederate Colonel Francis S. Bartow was erected after First Manassas but was destroyed before or during Second Manassas. Just the way these symbols have been used in recent years underscores their intended purpose in American society. “[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.”. Today’s defenders adopt the same logic. by Harold Meyerson. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced his intention to remove his state’s most prominent statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, which … The words "Black Lives Matter" spray painted on a monument to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va. June 25, 2015. The leaders often portrayed on them remind some of Americans’ capacity for hate. 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. 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 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. They could be used as … Honoring a revisionist history of the Confederacy is not only repugnant. Slaves owned by Ulysses S. Grant’s wife in Missouri were not freed until 1865. The rise of these monuments was a concerted effort among white supremacists to challenge black progress — and revise American history to do it. He had as good a right as anyone to opine on war memorials. A Gwinnett community is speaking up, calling for the removal of the Confederate monument at the Gwinnett County historic courthouse. 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. It also undercuts the argument of those who now claim they only want to preserve history. Every symbol of the Confederacy — flags, monuments and statues and the names of Confederate soldiers on military bases — upholds white supremacy. Here’s What We Know. 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. Roof knew this. The other early monuments were Union monuments at Battle of Rowlett’s Station in Munfordville, Kentucky in January 1862 for … One More Confederate Monument to Destroy: The Electoral College. Don’t destroy the Confederate statues (“No rush to find homes for Baltimore’s Confederate monuments,” Sept. 27). Indianapolis, Ind. The nation that Confederate President Jefferson Davis set out to build was inherently undemocratic: It aimed to exclude black people from the body politic. 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. No perfect union of course, demand compassion—and in the end, loving forgiveness their intended purpose in society... Did participants of the past have to tell us removal of our history is itself history! 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