'A Step Forward': Confederate Monuments Officially Being Removed Across the U.S.
Following the police killing of George Floyd and countless Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, states are removing statues that glorify the Confederacy
Confederate monuments and memorials exist across the United States of America — just look at this interactive map — glorifying the Confederate Army and its generals, presidents and soldiers. Though there were only 11 states in the Confederacy, 31 of the 50 states contain monuments dedicated to it.
The Equal Justice Initiative has documented nearly 2,000 monuments, most of which were erected decades after the Confederacy lost the Civil War and slavery was abolished.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, "The historical record suggests that monument-building peaked during three pivotal periods: from the late 1880s into the 1890s, as Reconstruction was being crushed; from the 1900s through the 1920s, with the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan, the increase in lynching and the codification of Jim Crow; and in the 1950s and 1960s, around the centennial of the war but also in reaction to advances in civil rights."
The call to remove these monuments is not a new one, but following the death of George Floyd and countless other Black men and women throughout the United States, people are demanding that monuments be taken down.
Charleston, South Carolina
The Charleston City Council voted unanimously to remove a statue of John C. Calhoun, former vice president and vocal supporter of slavery, from Marion Square.
"We have a sense of unity moving forward for racial conciliation and for unity in this city," Mayor John Tecklenburg said after the vote. "God bless you all."
Council member Peter Shahid said of the decision, "The statue has served as a symbol of division in our community and we don’t need that. We need symbols that unite us that bring us together not tear us apart.”
In Frankfort, officials ordered the removal of a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Governor Andy Beshear tweeted after the removal, "After calling for its removal and urging the Historic Properties Advisory Commission to act, today I pressed the button to bring it down," adding, "Now, every child who walks into their Capitol feels welcome. Today we took a step forward for the betterment of every single Kentuckian."
Work crews removed a statue and plaque in Jacksonville, Florida, that honored fallen Confederate soldiers.
Louisville officials announced on June 8 that they would be removing the statue of Confederate officer John Breckenridge Castleman after a Jefferson Circuit Court judge ruled they had the right to do so. The statue was originally meant to be moved two years ago, but the decision was appealed in court.
In a statement about the decision, Louisville mayor Greg Fischer said, "Too many people are suffering today because the promises of justice and equality enshrined in our Constitution are unfulfilled by a society that devalues African-American lives and denies African Americans justice, opportunity and equity. That's got to change. People want and deserve action. We need a transformation."
After protesters toppled the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, officials called for the statue to be removed completely.
In nearby Fredericksburg, an 800-lb. auction block for enslaved people was finally removed.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee would be removed from the city's Monument Avenue as well.
"That statue has been there for a long time. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now. So we're taking it down," Northam announced during a news event.
He added, "Make no mistake, removing a symbol is important but it's only a step. It doesn't mean problems are solved. There are still monuments of inequalities that exist in our commonwealth and in this country."
The removal has since been stalled by a country circuit judge, who granted a 10-day injunction sought by Virginia resident William C. Gregory, the great-grandson of two signatories of an 1890 deed that gave Virginia control of the statue. The deed states that the state of Virginia is meant to treat the statue and surrounding areas as “perpetually sacred” and “faithfully guard it and affectionately protect it.”
Here, crew members are seen taking down a 30-ft. Confederate monument in Decatur Square.
DeKalb County Judge Clarence Seeliger ordered the monument be removed and placed in storage indefinitely. The monument, which was erected in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, came down on the eve of Juneteenth, June 19.
“The Decatur Square is free of a monument that represented intolerance and bigotry and enslavements of generations of people,” DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said.
Crews removed a statue in Alexandria, Virginia on June 2, at the behest of the Daughters of the Confederacy, who owned the statue.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson tweeted, "Alexandria, like all great cities, is constantly changing and evolving," alongside photos of the removal.
The figure, named "Appomattox," was erected in 1889 and stood with its arms crossed and with its back to the North.
A statue of Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes was removed overnight on June 5 in the Alabama city.
Raleigh, North Carolina
The North Carolina Confederate Monument was removed from Capitol grounds after Governor Roy Cooper ordered all Confederate monuments be removed "to protect public safety."
The governor said in a statement on June 20, "I am concerned about the dangerous efforts to pull down and carry off large, heavy statues and the strong potential for violent clashes at the site. If the legislature had repealed their 2015 law that puts up legal roadblocks to removal we could have avoided the dangerous incidents of last night."
He added, "Monuments to white supremacy don't belong in places of allegiance, and it's past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way."
Raleigh, North Carolina
A monument in honor of the first Confederate soldier to die in battle, Henry Wyatt, was also removed from the grounds, along with the Monument to North Carolina Women of the Confederacy.
Protesters brought down a statue of Confederate officer Charles Linn amid protests, prompting Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin to "finish the job." The mayor pleaded with protesters in front of a five-story obelisk memorializing Confederate troops, telling them that the monument would be removed.
The decision was not without opposition, as Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a civil lawsuit against the city, writing that they removal of the monument violated the state's monument preservation law.
The mayor said of the impending fine and lawsuit, "I chose my city to avoid more civil unrest ... It's probably better for this city to pay this civil fine than to have more civil unrest."