Confederate Statues Going In Ashbin Of History, Just Like The Confederacy. Sad, We're Sure!
Don't you come back, etc.
Monuments to the Confederacy are headed for the scrap heap -- not just of history, but the real one. After Saturday's murder of a counter-demonstrator in Charlottesville, Virginia, officials in several cities and states have announced they intend to move up plans to get rid of their own Confederate eyesores -- the statues, at least, if not the eyesores who rally to protect them. In Durham, North Carolina, the townsfolk up and did it themselves.
Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington, Kentucky, announced on Facebook that he'd decided to accelerate removal of two Confederate statues on the lawn of the former Fayette County courthouse, which is set to reopen as a visitor's center:
And what precious icons of post-Reconstruction Lost Cause revisionism will be getting the boot?
One statue honors John Hunt Morgan, the “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy,” who owned a hemp factory and wool mill and organized the independent Lexington Rifles infantry company in 1857. A few years later, the riflemen took up arms against the Union.
At a nearby park is a statue of John C. Breckinridge, a former U.S. vice president who was kicked out of the Senate after he joined the Confederate army. He served as the last Confederate secretary of war.
If the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission and the city council approve, the statues will be moved from the visitor center -- where tourists may not be thrilled to be greeted by an anti-American militia leader and a guy kicked out of the Senate for treason -- to a nearby veterans park. Let's hope the statues also get some interpretive signage as well. Like perhaps reminding viewers that the square in front of the old courthouse was a slave market, which is one of the reasons Gray says the statues absolutely have to go:
We have two Confederate statues that are standing on really sacred ground. These men fought to preserve slavery and today they’re honored on the very ground where men and women and children were sold into slavery. That just isn’t right.
While Kentucky was a slave state, it remained in the Union, so statues lionizing Confederate figures are especially absurd -- and like most such monuments, went up after Reconstruction to reinforce white supremacy and Jim Crow. The Breckenridge statue was erected in 1887 and the Morgan statue in 1911 -- so these are monuments to rewriting history in the first place. Morgan's equestrian statue went up with some particularly nutty revisionism, says the Wiki: In reality, his horse was a mare, but the sculptor thought a really manly white general had to be riding a stallion, saying, "No hero should bestride a mare!" So he added some very ahistorical testicles, which now get painted in University of Kentucky blue and white from time to time. The statue's gender reassignment also inspired a ballad that closed with the couplet, For well we know gentlemen should show / Respect for a lady's balls. Yr Wonkette fully supports preserving that statue with complete historical signage.
In Baltimore (Hey, Maryland stayed in the Union, too!), Mayor Catherine Pugh said she intends to move forward with removing monuments to the nation that her state never belonged to, saying she was looking into moving them to Maryland cemeteries where Confederate soldiers are buried. Some members of the City Council want the hateful things destroyed altogether, but Pugh is concerned that would attract violent idiots seeking to "rescue" them -- not that they wouldn't also make a fuss about simply moving them or putting them in a museum. One statue that's especially irritating is of Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the Dred Scott decision in 1857, denying blacks the right of citizenship. A city commission on removing the monuments called for that one to be demolished, which seems fitting. Also worth noting:
The commission noted that about 65,000 Marylanders fought for the Union while 22,000 fought for the Confederacy, yet Baltimore has just one public monument to the Union.
Former mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who appointed the commission on reviewing the monuments, also took an interim step while their final disposition is being decided: She had signs placed in front of all four, stating, among other things, that they were
part of a propaganda campaign of national pro-Confederate organizations to perpetuate the beliefs of white supremacy, falsify history and support segregation and racial intimidation.
Those signs should be a model for any other remaining tributes to late 19th Century segregationists' wishful thinking, wherever they are.
[Update: Corrected date of Dred Scott decision. Baltimore Sun had the wrong date. FAKE NEWS]
Charleston, West Virginia
About 200 protesters turned out at a vigil In Charleston Sunday to remember the lives lost in Charlottesville and to call for the removal of a statue of Stonewall Jackson on the lawn of the Statehouse. And yes, West Virginia is yet another state that was not in the goddamned Confederacy at all. One demonstrator who wanted the statue to come down was Dustin White of Charleston, who told local TV station WSAZ, "I want people to know that hillbillies do not stand for this type of hate [...] This is an issue that has been laying under the surface for quite some time." Yr Wonkette can certainly get behind a "Hillbillies against Confederate Monuments" movement. Also, Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, had a nifty suggestion on the Twitter Machine for what could replace Stonewall Jackson at the Capitol: "A tall statue of abolitionist John Brown [...] NY & KS have one." And indeed they both do.
Durham, North Carolina
A crowd of protesters in Durham, North Carolina, decided there was no point in waiting for officialdom to act, so Monday night they pulled down a statue in front of the old Durham County Courthouse, commemorating "THE BOYS WHO WORE THE GRAY," as its cheesy plinth proclaimed. The monument, a bronze depiction of a generic Confederate soldier produced by a Georgia company that apparently churned out Confederate statues that ended up all over the South, was erected in 1924 -- you know, because history, not because it's revisionist history.
Yr Wonkette has mixed feelings about this: Yeah, it's thrilling to see a relic of hatred and racism come down. But vandalism: bad. As a general strategy for dealing with Confederate monuments, we can't get behind that, because it sets a precedent we just can't buy into. We should absolutely get rid of statues that glorify the war for slavery, and which were erected to send a message that Jim Crow would not be questioned. But doing it as vigilantes isn't the right way, because of the ol' Categorical Imperative: We don't want to provide any precedent for a bunch of very sincere Holocaust deniers to tear down, say, Boise's Anne Frank memorial -- which was already vandalized earlier this year. It's not like facts and history would persuade some jerks determined to destroy the Anne Frank statue, and we probably shouldn't give them the rhetorical ammunition to say "You tear down the statues you hate, and we'll tear down the ones we hate."
[Editrix's note: the only mixed feelings we have about tearing down the statue is in seeing people kick it, because we don't want them to break their toes.]
In the case of the statue in Durham, the North Carolina legislature took the decision out of cities' hands with a 2015 law forbidding removal of historical markers without the approval of the state Historical Commission, which of course is not going to approve any such thing. The law even prohibits "altering" them, which we assume would also preclude signage like that in Baltimore. Maybe the law is an unconstitutional restriction on cities' First Amendment rights? We'd love to see the ACLU get on that.
But even if we're not on board with vigilante statue-smashing [ed note: yes we are], we did get a big laugh out of this email exchange Durham City Council member Charlie Reece posted to Twitter:
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