When I was an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin, there were four statues glorifying the Confederacy on campus, including statues of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. Less than a mile away stood an elementary school named after Lee, and at the state capitol perched a monument to Confederate soldiers, erected in 1903, which itself was just one of a dozen tributes to the Confederacy on the capitol grounds. There was a street in Austin named after Jefferson Davis, and one after Robert E. Lee. Which is to say, nostalgia for the Lost Cause suffused the city’s public spaces, and the continued existence of these symbols, made a pointed statement about whose version of history mattered, and represented a not-so-subtle threat about who was seen to fully belong in those spaces.
After the Black Lives Matter movement began, after the massacre of nine black worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston by an unrepentant white supremacist, and after Charlottesville, some of those monuments to white supremacy were removed in response to public protest and outcry. And now, more Confederate monuments are increasingly being pulled down around the country as part of protests against police brutality and state violence, and all I can say is, good riddance to these ugly statues that memorialize racist losers!
On Wednesday night, protesters in Richmond, Virginia tore down a statue of Jefferson Davis, one of the many that have lined the city’s Monument Avenue for decades.
Here’s a nice video of Davis on the ground and his head cracked open:
And that statue of Jefferson Davis isn’t the only monument to the Confederacy as well as white supremacy that’s been torn down in Richmond in recent days. From NPR:
The statue of Davis, who was president of the Confederacy, was the third to be torn down within the past week in Richmond. On Saturday, a statue of Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham was toppled from its pedestal. And on Tuesday, a statue of Christopher Columbus was torn down and dumped in a lake.
Earlier in the evening on Wednesday, protesters in Portsmouth, Virginia, had also beheaded and torn down statues on the Confederate monument in their city, one which just happens to be located on a site where enslaved people were bought and sold and jailed.
More, from the Virginian-Pilot:
The crowd, frustrated by the Portsmouth City Council’s decision to put off moving the monument, switched to throwing bricks from the post that held the plaque they had pulled down as they initially worked to tumble the statue. They then started to dismantle the monument one piece at a time as a marching band played in the streets and other protesters danced.
Here’s some nice video of some very happy people:
Virginia has the most Confederate monuments out of all of the states in the country, and if one needs a reminder, it was the violent protests led by white nationalists against the city’s plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee that helped to spur a new movement to take down symbols of the Confederacy, one which has only gained new momentum as part of protests against the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and other black people by police officers. And the state’s elected officials, pushed by demands from protesters, have taken their own, much-belated steps to remove statues. Governor Ralph Northam has vowed to remove a towering statue of Robert E. Lee on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, and in Alexandria, the city removed a statue of a Confederate soldier earlier this month.
But Confederate monuments aren’t just tumbling down in Virginia—according to the New York Times, “Across the country, at least 10 monuments to Confederates or other controversial historical figures have been removed, and people have challenged similar monuments in more than 20 cities.” In Mobile, Alabama, the city removed the statue of the Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes from its pedestal and in Montgomery, protesters recently took down a statue of Robert E. Lee from its place in front of a school named after Lee. Over in Birmingham, after protesters had already toppled over a statue of the Confederate officer Charles Linn and then attempted to topple an obelisk memorializing the Confederacy, the city’s mayor Randall Woodfin promised he would take it down, a promise that he fulfilled.
And the push to remove symbols of white supremacy from our public spaces has now spread to the nation’s capital, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for the removal of 11 statues of Confederate leaders at the U.S. Capitol. Similarly, Army leaders are “open” to renaming military bases that currently bear the names of leaders of the Confederacy, though unsurprisingly, Donald Trump isn’t a fan.
If you’re curious about whether there’s a Confederate monument close to you (for no reason at all!), you can check out this handy map from the Southern Poverty Law Center.