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After violence at a White supremacist rally led to the death of three people in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, growing number of cities and civilians have started tearing down Confederate monuments across the United States. Several government officials, including California Representative and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, have call ed to remove markers that celebrate controversial Civil War era figures from public spaces. The Confederate States of America, which formed in 1861, argued that states should have the right to maintain slavery, while the Unions fought to eradicate it. Conflicts between two groups led to the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. In the 150 years following the war, hundreds of Confederate monuments were built in almost every state, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. A nonprofit legal advocacy organization published a 2016 report that details a timeline of when States instal Confederate iconography; districts that celebrate Confederate-related holidays; public buildings that feature Confederate flags; and cities that issue commemorative license plates. As you can see in the timeline below, number of Confederate memorial installations peaked around 1910, 50 years after the end of the Civil War and at the height of Jim Crow, era defined by segregation and disenfranchisement laws against Black Americans. Confederate installations spiked again in the 1950s and 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement.
Debate for and against removal has continued in cities where statues have already been removed and where there are plans for removal. The day before, Gov. Northam announced plans to remove the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Mayor Levar Stoney announced plans to remove the rest of the citys Confederate monuments. In response, Republican State Senator Amanda Chase took to Facebook to say: Lets be honest here. Theres overt effort to erase all white history. She added that she felt statues were artistic expressions protected by the First Amendment. The next day, Virginia Senate Republican Caucus issued a statement signed by nearly 20 State Senators calling Chases ' comments idiotic, but ultimately arguing that the State should keep monuments, and alluding to Gov. Northams own racial controversy in 2019 when yearbook image appear to show him dressed in blackface. Governors decision to remove Lee's statue from Monument Avenue is not in the best interests of Virginia, Caucus say. Attempts to eradicate instead of contextualizing history invariably fail. And because of this Governors personal history, motivations for this decision will always be suspect. Like Senator Chases ' idiotic, inappropriate and inflammatory response, his decision is more likely to further divide, not Unite, Virginians. On June 10, Sen. Ted Cruz retweeted video of protesters toppling the statue of Columbus Paul, Minn., And write American Taliban. Many other municipalities across the country are now having to decide what will happen to their Confederate monuments. At Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, protesters have surrounded the statue of John Brown Gordon, Confederate soldier who is believed to also be the founder of States Ku Klux Klan. City leaders across the country are now also reconsidering names of schools and streets that honor Confederate soldiers, or other known racists. Is this way we want to represent ourselves? That question we have to ask, Daina Ramey Berry, Professor of History at University of Texas at Austin, tells TIME. I think now people are saying no. And that is why you have people protesting. This is not the America we want to be.
One hundred fifty-five years after the end of the Civil War, sculpture of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, toppled in Virginia City, American secessionists call their capital. In Alabama, statue of Robert E. Lee, Confederacys most honored General, was knocked over in front of Montgomery high school that bear his name. In a blitz that burst out of anti-police-brutality movement, protesters this month have vandalized and removed dozens of monuments to Confederate politicians and Soldiers. It took less than two weeks for the grass-roots response to the death of George Floyd, black man who was asphyxiated when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck, to morph from peaceful protests, bouts of burning and looting and nationwide demands for reform of police behavior into concerted attack on Symbols of Confederacy. But that shift is now plain to see in places large and small, in numbers well beyond similar actions that follow 2015 mass murder at a Black church in Charleston, SC, and the 2017 white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville. This isnt end, Cox say. There are over 700 of these monuments left. And I ca say this is a unique situation. There is a long history since the Civil rights movement of actions against monuments, especially after the Charleston massacre and after Charlottesville. This is the same exact debate weve seen since the end of the Civil War, and we still have the same national divide over immigration and race and what kind of South we will have. Even as this extraordinary wave of topplings and defacings of statues continue, more Confederate monuments are being built more than 30 in the past two decades, Cox say and at least seven Southern States have passed laws in recent years making it tougher to get rid of existing statues. The Alabamas 2017 Law, for example, prohibits relocation, removal, alteration, renaming or disturbing of monuments that have been standing for more than 40 years. Most of the Confederate statues that dot the Southern landscape were erect, however, not in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, but half a century later. Southern women's groups that paid for most of the statues in the early 20th Century say they want place to honor their fall Love ones, but groups that pay for monuments seek to send messages at TIME when they were pushing for and winning Jim Crow laws to codify racial segregation. In the end, these battles are not as much about law as about who own history. In Birmingham, despite the Alabamas New Law prohibiting removal of monuments, protesters tried but failed to tear down the Confederate obelisk, but Mayor Randall Woodfin stepped in and had City workers take down the 50-foot-high Memorial. That led the State attorney General to file suit against the Mayor, saying that the city had violated Alabama Law.
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