I had a feeling the Sons of Confederate Veterans would try something like this when I blogged about Jefferson Davis and Jim Limber a few weeks ago. We all remember back in 2003 when the SCV put up a big stink about the unveiling of a statue commemorating Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad's visit to Richmond in April 1865. Turns out that the monument is being planned for the grounds of the American Civil War Center (ACWC) and Richmond National Battlefield Park at Tredegar. No surprise that Brad Bowling is behind this project.
The $100,000-plus statue by Lexington sculptor Gary Casteel would help
educate the public about the Confederate president and how his family
took in a mixed-race orphan and serve as a counter to the Lincoln
statue that was dedicated in 2003[.]
Bowling went on to suggest that, “The acceptance of that statue would soothe some feelings of Southerners from a few years ago.” Whose feelings? The feelings of white Americans in the SCV? No doubt, there is a story to be told about the relationship between Limber and the Davis family; however, by depicting this relationship in stone the SCV is making an explicit statement about how Davis and the white South understood race relations. Davis was a wealthy slaveowner, he presided over a government whose expressed purpose was the preservation of slavery, and he remained committed to a racial hierarchy up until his death. More to the point, there remain a number of questions that must be addressed about this relationship. Interestingly, you will find very little about Limber in William Cooper’s biography of Davis, which is considered to be the best modern study. Such a statue would distort the past as much as it may comfort Bowling and the rest of the SCV – in that sense it functions along the same lines as their ridiculous campaign to commemorate black Confederates.
The ACWC has done a fabulous job of organizing its permanent exhibit around three perspectives on the Civil War, including that of the Union, Confederate, and African American. It is impossible to know what Bowling has in mind when he suggests that there is a “need for historic balance at Tredegar.” Representatives of the SCV are scheduled to meet with officials from the ACWC and this will be the first serious test for its new president, Christy S. Coleman. I trust that they will be persuaded by their continued commitment to serious history and not the SCV’s propaganda.
P.S. First we had Stonewall Jackson as the black man’s friend and now we have Jefferson Davis. I don’t think African Americans really appreciate how good they had it back then. With friends like that who needs freedom?