May 8, 2017


The Stubborn Persistence of Confederate Monuments (DAVID A. GRAHAM  APR 26, 2016, The Atlantic)

[S]chools are perhaps some of the most egregious examples--unlike monuments to the local war dead, for example, they go out of their way to celebrate the rebellion in a venue otherwise unconnected to the war. Lee, the great beneficiary of the late-20th century "Lost Cause" myth, is the most common honoree, with 52 schools named for him. Other common namesakes include Jackson (15 schools), Jefferson Davis (13), and P.G.T. Beauregard and Nathan Bedford Forrest (seven each). Forrest is a particularly appalling choice. A cavalry general and probable war criminal, Forrest was the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Several years ago, a school board in Jacksonville, Florida, removed his name from a high school--which hadn't been integrated until 1971, and then only after a federal court order. SPLC notes that 27 of these 109 schools named for prominent Confederates are majority black. [...]

Many of the treasured monuments that seem to offer a connection to the post-bellum South are actually much later, anachronistic constructions, and they tend to correlate closely with periods of fraught racial relations, as my colleague Yoni Appelbaum has noted. South Carolina didn't hoist the battle flag in Columbia until 1961--the anniversary of the war's start, but also the middle of the civil-rights push, and a time when many white Southerners were on the defensive about issues like segregation and voting rights.

A timeline of the genesis of the Confederate sites shows two notable spikes. One comes around the turn of the 20th century, just after Plessy v. Ferguson, and just as many Southern states were establishing repressive race laws. The second runs from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s--the peak of the civil-rights movement. In other words, the erection of Confederate monuments has been a way to perform cultural resistance to black equality.

Where's Sherman when we need him...

Posted by at May 8, 2017 7:34 AM