Tag Archives: monuments

Arlington’s Monument to Peace and Reconciliation Slated for Demolition

Cherry trees bloom in Jackson Circle around the Confederate Monument in Section 16 of Arlington National Cemetery. The Confederate Monument was unveiled June 4, 1914, according to the ANC website. (Arlington National Cemetery photo by Rachel Larue)

by Robin Traywick Williams

It is dangerous these days to advocate for anything even tangentially associated with the words “Confederate,” but after almost three years of monument-bashing, it might be worth discussing where this is going. In addition to Lee, Stuart and nameless soldiers on courthouse lawns, Columbus, Lincoln, and Juniper Serra have all fallen. Will the country take a deep breath and consider whether significant works of art bear saving because of their historical and cultural value or will self-appointed arbiters of righteous thinking move on, unrestrained, to burning Monticello and imploding the slave-built White House?

The Naming Commission has submitted its final report, and not surprisingly, it recommends the renaming or removal from military installations of every item related to the Civil War, down to the last toenail clipping. The panel of eight political appointees was nothing if not thorough, finding offense even in the use of the color gray on military insignia as well as in the name of a Confederate horse.

Renaming bases and removing prints of Civil War battles is one thing—the hallowed ground of Ft. Benning will remain, and there are thousands of reproduction prints—but the Commission has taken the astonishing step of recommending the demolition of a culturally and historically important work of art by an internationally-renowned artist—in Arlington Cemetery, no less.

On the block is the Confederate Memorial to Reconciliation and Reunification, which is on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing part of the Arlington National Cemetery Historic District. Created by one of America’s most celebrated artists, Sir Moses Ezekiel, the monument was endorsed by four presidents and dedicated by Woodrow Wilson at an event attended by veterans of the North and South, who shook hands and embraced.

The monument recognizes an important moment in the evolution of the history of America, the spiritual and emotional reconciliation of two regions that had fought bitterly 50 years earlier. Although the country was technically reunified in 1865, the heavy hand of Reconstruction made reconciliation challenging, as Southerners struggled to rebuild their war-torn states under steep federal burdens. But in 1898, the sons and grandsons of Confederate soldiers joined the U.S. Army in large numbers to help fight the Spanish-American War. President McKinley, himself a Union veteran, saw an opportunity to bind up the nation’s wounds with a generous show of gratitude towards the South. Congress concurred, and provision was made for proper treatment of Confederate graves, including re-interment of hundreds in Section 16 of Arlington Cemetery. Continue reading

The Confederate Statue Compromise of Dalton, Ga.

by Donald Smith

There are good ways and bad ways to handle controversial statues and memorials. These excerpts from a press release demonstrate one of the good ways. The press release describes how Dalton, Georgia, relocated a statue of a Confederate general, and did it in a way that fostered cooperation within the community. (All emphasis is added).

On July 8, 2020, following 30 days of several marches and demonstrations, a town hall meeting in which a number of persons spoke to the Council of Dalton about the removal of the Joseph E. Johnston Statue from public property, a Facebook petition to move the statue and another Facebook petition to not move the statue, the City of Dalton notified the local Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (hereinafter “UDC”) that the UDC needed to make arrangements to move the statue as any permissive easement to allow its continued placement on the public right of way of the intersection of Crawford and Hamilton Streets were no longer permitted. The City of Dalton gave the UDC a reasonable time period within which to arrange to move the statue.

The UDC expressed last summer that it was ready and willing to move the statue provided that a suitable location could be found AND provided that funds sufficient to safely handle the move could be secured as the UDC did not have any money to be able to do so. … Members of the community at large including some of the original marchers volunteered to raise funds to pay for the move.

The Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia which took no position on the subject of whether to move the statue or not to move it, offered to serve as a conduit, or bank, to facilitate the anonymous donations required for the move.… Continue reading

Richmond’s Next Chapter

by Jon Baliles

The Times-Dispatch Editorial Board printed a piece this week entitled “The city’s Lost Cause statues are all gone. So what now?” While it recaps the events and protests of 2020 and the fact that all of the former Confederate statues have been removed, it offers a bit more foresight by looking at what will be required of our City and our leaders in the future.

The piece points out that the removal of the A.P. Hill statue was characterized by Mayor Stoney as an opportunity to “start writing a new chapter for the city” and to make the accident-prone intersection more safe. “That’s the blocking and tackling of running a government,” Stoney said. The editorial, however, goes a little deeper than the Mayor:

Charting a new chapter for Richmond, however, requires something more than “blocking and tackling.” In the summer of 2020, a broad coalition of Richmond citizens and public officials — including Stoney — embraced a newfound commitment to breaking down systemic racism and creating a more inclusive, equitable Richmond. In the winter of 2022, we still have little to show for it.

It runs down the list of things that you constantly hear Stoney talking about but providing very little in the way of policy solutions that are implemented and working.

City schools are struggling with a leadership crisis, a teacher shortage and a student population that’s been devastated by pandemic-induced learning challenges. The affordable housing crisis, especially for the poorest Richmonders, has only grown worse. Evictions and homelessness are spiking, with no comprehensive plan to address it. The Richmond Police Department is grappling with more than 150 officer vacancies as gun violence surges — disproportionately impacting Black families, of course — as it begins the search to replace yet another departed police chief.

It talks about the housing crisis, and that apartments are going up with lightning speed in Manchester and Scott’s Addition and (soon) in the Diamond District, while “South Side and the East End are left to fend for themselves. Redevelopment of public housing complexes remain stuck at the starting gate. The new Richmond takes priority over the old.” It does point out some of the positive news we have seen, like poverty dropping to 18% (lowest in two decades) and our “urban cool” is on the rebound as the pandemic years are more in the rearview mirror.

But the thing that struck me the most about this piece is that it is really the first marker of issues that are and will be on the table and need to be addressed in 2024 when the City elects a new Mayor and City Council (in which, I will not be a participant). We have heard lots of talk and seen lots of tweets over the years from the Mayor and others about all they are doing for the City. But we can no longer afford trading real political solutions (including listening, compromise, and common ground) for self-promotion on social media just to rack up more clicks, likes and retweets and counting that as a measure of success.

As Denzel Washington once said, “Just because you are doing a lot more, doesn’t mean you are getting a lot more done. Don’t confuse movement with progress.” Continue reading