What should we do with confederate monuments and statues?

Some people say;

  1. Move them to a site less public.

  2. Rip them down and grind them up.

  3. Leave them up and put up opposite statues such as civil rights leaders.

  4. Just leave them alone and learn from them.

I’m ok with all except for #2. I dont feel we should erase history but learn from it.

Besides where will it end? Destroy theHunley (a confederate submarine)? Tear down statues to people like Andrew Jackson, Christopher Columbus, and George Custer? Should they tear down Stone Mountain?

Also we have in Leavenworth Kansas a statue/memorial to theBuffalo soldiers. Black cavalrymen who killed indians.

Take them all down, put them in museums and such, if they’ll have them.

This one.

What do we learn from a statue of Robert E. Lee? That some guys in the Civil War rode horses?

If you want to learn from history, that’s great. We’ve already built things exactly for this purpose. They’re called libraries and they have entire rooms full of history.

Many are going down anyway, because the lessons they give were based on the worst kind of ignorance.

Looks like your poll is missing an option, BTW. Do Mods have the ability to add poll options after the fact? If so, maybe you could ask one to add: Torn down by protesters.

Take them down and put some in museums and some in back rooms. What is there to learn? That Southern states celebrated white supremacists and traitors? Seems like an odd lesson to learn. Germany doesn’t have statues of Hitler up (I don’t think) and he wasn’t even a traitor to Germany. Should we have statues of Benedict Arnold up? Ethel and Julius Rosenberg? “Yay, we’re traitors and proud of it! Also, we’re the real Americans! Also, we admire traitors and people who put their lives on the line to defend the practice of slavery!”

If any of the monuments are interesting artistically, they can go on display in museums, with plaques explaining the context in which they were built. The rest can go into storerooms.

And while we’re at it, things named after Confederates (military bases, schools, etc.) should all be re-named after honorable Southern war heroes (you know, the ones who refused to commit treason). I’m sure there must have been a few.

Just like in the old days!


Although in this case I would be ok with charging the ones doing today’s tear down, and I would not be surprised that they would get their defense crowd funded in no time.

Melt them down into participation trophies for inner city school children.

There is no one, simple answer to how to handle the complex post-war history of the South. Anyone who suggests one is ignoring reality.

How does one evaluate a statue of Robert E. Lee? He certainly wasn’t an agitator for secession, so you cannot tar him with being a gung-ho rebel agitating for the continuance of slavery. By all accounts he was a product of his times: a person who felt that his allegiance to the state was more important than his allegiance to the federation the state was part of. Thus, reluctantly, he resigned his commission in the US Army and took up a position in the army of the CSA, the new federation into which his state of Virginia had associated itself. Almost everyone agrees he was a very competent general, who displayed noble traits over-and-above what was required of him as a commander in that army. It is certainly understandable why someone might want to commemorate his leadership.

On the other hand, he rebelled against his lawful government, took up arms in that rebellion (thereby committing treason), and did his best to preclude that lawful government from putting down the rebellion. In most countries, having lost said rebellion, he would have been tried and shot. He retained his life solely because our country decided in the years after the war that it was more important to stitch the country back together than it was to take revenge upon those who had fomented a very costly war. His leadership in the treasonous cause should not be revered, but rather should be the subject of scorn whenever possible.

This is but one example of the extremely complex issues that dealing with the Civil War presents to us. Even if we remove the issue of how “blacks” feel about things, that war was a rebellion by treasonous conspirators against their lawfully established government. How is that a noble cause? Yet we squirm at that portrayal, because we understand that the exact same charges can be leveled against our “Founding Fathers”. The only difference between them is that our FFs won their rebellion; the South lost its rebellion. Are we then just hypocrites who’s judgment depends upon what, exactly, was being fought for? Is rebellion ok when it is raised in the name of “liberty”, but treasonous when it is raised in the name of “liberty to do x”, where x is something we don’t like?

And what do we do with the thousands and thousands of small town/city memorial posts/monuments in the South for their Civil War dead? By what right do we strip a town of its collective mourning and remembrance of its brave sons who fought on behalf of what turned out to be treasonous leaders? Almost every town in the South has such a monument. Yeah, Gen. Forrest may not be worthy of a monument, but is Johnny Rebel from Bennettsville, SC undeserving of being remembered for his brave sacrifice?

The reality of the South is that no proper method of dealing with such statues and monuments can be implemented until the South comes to terms with the Civil War, and what that war really meant. For too long, the South has clung to the notion of the “Lost Cause”, a noble fight against what was viewed as tyranny, a fight that was doomed to failure not because the cause was wrong, but because the northern aggressors would not let them alone. We foster this notion by lionizing the actions of the generals, who undeniably fought bravely, and with a lot of success. We glorify Johnny Rebel, who is viewed as having a tenacity on the battlefield unmatched by Union forces. We romanticize the ante-bellum period, with movies like Gone With the Wind. And, as a result, the South has yet to come to terms with the fact that the leaders of the South led their people into treasonous rebellion against the United States, which was wrong.

But it’s getting better, slowly but surely. For the Centennial of the War, there was a lot of historical pomp about the Lost Cause. Read the official history written by Bruce Catton (in three volumes) for an example of how even in the North, the Civil War was still romanticized. But earlier this decade, during the Sesquicentennial, there was almost no mention of the War. I believe that is because the South has become embarrassed, finally, about what it did. They don’t want to talk about it (most of them), because they realize it was wrong, but they cannot, yet, admit that their own ancestors did wrong. Another fifty years might finally see them accepting that, and acting accordingly.

Meanwhile, monuments and statues should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Some should go. Some should be moved. Some should be explained. All should be taught about. When those who would criticize the people of the South can realize that these people were not “bad” people, even though they made choices that were not good, then the animosity over what to do with the statutes and monuments can finally fade away.

I don’t understand the “learn from them” stuff. There are a lot of historical figures that do not have monuments in town squares, and yet no one has forgotten them or their stories. And not every historical figure needs to be remembered. Will anyone really suffer if they don’t know who J.E.B Stuart is?

I live 1.5 miles from Monument Ave in Richmond Va. With the exception of the Arther Ashe abomination, the monuments are artistically stunning. But it is not like removing them will wipe out the history they represent. Most Americans have never seen those monuments, and yet they know who Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were. They know about the Civil War. So I would have no problem removing their statues.

The only monument that I’d be reluctant to remove is the one to Matthew Maury though, because the nerd in me loves that he made lasting contributions to oceanography and navigation. Plus, the monument is bad-ass.

Personally, I have learned a whole lot more about the Civil War (beyond my formal education) by taking the time to read historical markers. They are informative enough to motivate a person to dig deeper into a subject without, you know, glamorizing anything. Monuments literally put historical figures up on a pedestal. John Wilkes Booth is a historical figure, but I hope we would all agree that he doesn’t need a monument for us to remember his impact. We don’t need to memoralize the generals of a losing traitorous army either. We can talk about the inconvenience and expense to remove these things. But I don’t really see how they can be defended on the basis of educational value.

Oddly enough, there ARE still people honoring the Rosenbergs as martyrs.

I think it depends on intent. Any statutes of Confederate leaders that implicitly celebrate their legacy should be removed. But it’s certainly appropriate for major battles and events of the Civil War to be commemorated with monuments, especially at the locations where they occurred.

Vichy France is somewhat analogous to the Confederacy, in that it was an illegitimate government run by traitors that existed for a few years. I don’t think there are any statues in France of Vichy leaders. But there are certainly monuments dealing with WW2.

I have to point out that if most of the people tearing down the statue were from the south, that then they should not be criticized but complimented.

But better yet: send notes of support or other forms of congratulation to the state and city leaders that are ordering the statues to be removed, they need all the support from all the people of the south that are not bad indeed.

Living in Virginia my whole life (almost), I grew up with all manner of monuments, statues, school namings and everything else, all honoring the SOUTHERN cause in the Civil War.

I just accepted it, most of the time. But eventually, I thought things through a bit more, especially after studying History in College, and realized that the Virginia government systems including the public schools had taught us all a particular VERSION of the conflict. The Southern version.

Something to take note of with all the Confederate memorials, is WHEN they were erected, and WHY they were. A lot of them were set up, not to honor the Virginians, so much as to snub the North. A lot of them were set up expressly to symbolically oppose desegregation.

As an Historian, I have a great appreciation of keeping a solid hold on the past, as it is a very real part of the present. However, the people who set up those statues and monuments, were NOT doing so to hold on to ALL of the past, or they would have erected statues of Lincoln next to every stature of Jefferson Davis, Grant next to Lee, and so on.

Hell, all of the statues we have here in Northern Virginia, which include Confederate soldiers, have the soldiers all facing SOUTH.

I finally realized that NONE OF THEM are valid memorials to the American past, they are all INSULTS to the United States. By original intent of those who commissioned them and paid to erect them.

That. I’m not particularly involved in American history, but that’s the position I’ve already defended in similar threads (recently about some not so nice British guy).

The only role of a statue that doesn’t have a particular artistic value (that would cover 99% of “war heroes” statues) is to honor the person depicted. There’s no reason to honor despicable people.

I’m OK with people who “went with the flow”, held the moral values of their time (regardless how poorly we perceive them now), did no better nor worse than their contemporaries.

But then, there are people who went “beyond the call of duty”. Who have been particularly bad, even by their era’s standards. Or, like in this case, who actively fought against the tide to defend those already outdated values. I can’t see why those should be honored.

Here you have people who went to considerable length to preserve an institution that was already considered in their time as morally repugnant in most of the western world. I can’t see how you can want to honor both their “achievements” and those of people who actively tried to put an end to slavery. Keeping a statue of Lee in a place of honor is an insult to every union soldier he got killed, to every slave he helped keeping a bit longer in bondage. If you want statues, erect one on all these anonymous tombs. These forgotten people were vastly more deserving than he was.

I only snipped that for brevity; yours was an insightful post that touched well on the many issues. I agree that it’s important to remember that these memorialized people were a product of their times and weren’t de facto monsters. It’s very easy -and somewhat justified- to sit here today and place our 21st century values on these persons from the past, though.

And with that being said, and to directly answer the OP, I think it should be on a case-by-case basis. If the local citizens petition to have it removed then we should remove it.

I realize that my answer doesn’t make for a crystal-clear solution, however.

I’d say take it down and put it in a museum. I would prefer that generally public monuments be something to celebrate or a source of pride. In some instances, I can see some value in a monument to a terrible misdeed as an act of atonement. In this case though, these monuments are not generally viewed as shame for a misdeed, but as something to celebrate. A museum can display them with the corresponding context so that people understand what they’re really about.

The short of it is that the confederate monuments, the plaques, the flags atop capitol buildings, the confederate symbols in official state flags are symbols that attempted to validate a society based on white supremacy. I can accept that people like Robert E Lee, as individuals, were men of their time, not really any different than many of the slave-owning Founding Fathers whom we venerate. And I can to some degree understand that there’s no small hypocrisy in honoring slave-holding presidents of the United States while essentially vilifying the individuals who served the Confederacy. If the statues and symbols were simply ways of honoring the individuals who served the Confederacy, that might be something I could accept. But the notion that these are showing reverence to a lost cause is a mythology created by a recalcitrant society that refused to embrace a vision in which whites and blacks could be considered equals under the Constitution.