Confederate Monuments

Where is the line between destroying history and and honoring traitors?



This Confederate Memorial Monument, sculpted by Alexander Doyle, sits in Montgomery, Ala.

Steven Oliver, Multimedia Manager

Most of the people living in the United States may have heard the term “southern hospitality” at least once, and be familiar with what it refers to. Not many may have heard about “southern pride” though, and even less know what it means.

For anyone that was raised in the south, “southern pride” can vary, and not everyone from the south has that “pride.” I don’t even know what that pride personally means to me any more. Growing up, I along with many southern children, were told many stories about the horrible things our ancestors did. But, they were put behind a veil of heroism and bravery.

They said the civil war was about protecting individual states’ rights and not about keeping slavery alive and well in the south, that northern state citizens were just as terribly racist, if not worse, than their southern counterparts, even the narrative that white southern slave owners treated the slaves they owned like “family.” I was told many more things growing up, and by many people.

It wasn’t just stories told by that cousin who showed up drunk to the family reunion, or distant relative at Sunday dinner. It was my teachers, friends, co-workers, and basically encompassed everyone I knew. What was the worst part of it all? I believed all of it, no questions asked.

All this blind propaganda was what led to building and violently protecting monuments celebrating the lives of “great Confederate heroes.” These memorials were built not out of this “southern pride,” but rather out of necessity. The builders sought to bring the south out of the dark times following the civil war. The builders were the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, founders of what was formerly known as the Confederate Museum (now the American Civil War Museum). This group sought to move forward with a “New South,” one that could support Industrialized Capitalism. The problem was that the group portrayed slavery as a philanthropic endeavor, and supported Jim Crow laws because it was the only true resolution to ease racial tensions at the time. In other words, this group wanted the ability to make money again on the backs of the cheap labor freed slaves by creating false peace and encouraging businesses to come to the south once more. What does all this mean, and how does it pertain to anything?

Most of the monuments were funded by and built after the founding of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, from the mid 1890’s to the first World War, and some were even constructed later during the Civil Rights movement. This means that the people constructing these monuments did not care about history, and only wanted to send a message. That message could be interpreted as the south belongs to white people. For what other purpose would there be to build a memorial to a Confederate Civil War “hero” during a movement for black citizens rights?

Confederate monuments being torn down has been a huge issue as of late, and recently resulted in a great tragedy. On Aug. 12, a man decided to increase his speed and run into a completely blocked street of counter protesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 more. This kind of divisiveness is never acceptable, especially when it concerns a statue of a man who could be argued for in both ways of good/evil.

For those that believe that the monuments to slave owning traitors should be taken down, I agree. For those who oppose that notion and shout “history cannot be erased,” I agree as well. I propose those of differing opinions come together and seek solutions to this problem and others we face today. We can never collectively agree on any one issue, but we can seek to understand differing opinions to avoid further tragedy.

As far as the Civil War monument issue goes, I would argue that the monuments were built on the lies and intentions of devious individuals. The death of an estimated 620,000 Americans can never be forgotten and should be acknowledged. Shrines to famous slave owners should not exist in America, but to heal historical wounds,people must let them go.

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