Why Reidsville’s Confederate Soldier Should Be Returned to its Pedestal

Reidsville's Confederate Soldier

One of the things I enjoyed while living in Virginia was the opportunity to explore public spaces related to the Civil War.  Whenever I traveled to a new city or town one of the first things I did was look for that Confederate soldier monument at a downtown intersection or on the courthouse grounds.  There is something comforting about finding that monument – a present reminder of a distant past.  Not so distant that we are transported back to the Civil War, but to that period between 1880 and 1920 as white southerners struggled to make sense of a past in the face of modernity.  Those of us who approach these spaces are forced to confront our individual and collective need to remember as well as the consequences of forgetting.

As many of you know the Confederate monument in Reidsville, North Carolina is in the news.  This past May the monument was damaged by a driver, which led to its removal.  It should come as no surprise that the question of where to go from here has caused some controversy.  Residents have to deal with competing ideas of what the monument means as well as questions of where the funds will come from to repair it and whether it ultimately belongs in its previous location.  Of course, it is up to the residents of Reidsville to make this decision.

That said, I hope the monument finds its way back to its old pedestal.  Communities need reminders of how they have chosen to remember their past. They have the potential to bring people together to celebrate, contemplate, and even protest.  Often times they fuel a push to dedicate new monuments to those aspects of the past that for whatever reason have been ignored.  To me, that is the sign of a healthy and vibrant community.

15 responses... add one

Kevin, well put. Though I was born in the Northeast and live here again I spent a good part of my life–well over two decades, including my formative high school and college years–in the South. I consider myself a Southerner, but not Confederate, in many ways. I remember seeing these statues in every town square and found them comforting as well. They give a sense of time and place, and allow one to get one’s bearings. Where I lived in North Texas there was a low intensity, but long term movement to take down the statue in the courthouse square. I understand the sentiments, but disagree. The statues are themselves primary sources with much to tell us.

I have no problem with the statues. In almost every case they were paid for by the veterans and their families as well as by, in some cases, the localities. It is important to remember, also, that these were very trying times economically throughout much of the South and it too real sacrifice to pay for the monuments. However, I also realize this was during the era of Jim Crowe so there are no doubt many who view these with a jaundiced eye.

Kevin, as I am sure you know, the same kind of display can be found on just about every village green throughout New England and by the courthouse in other Northern states.

All are a part of the overall historical memory.

Of course each locality needs to make their own decisions.

If the soldier can not return to sentry duty in Reidsville perhaps the local SCV Camp could mount him outside of their facility.

Kevin, as I am sure you know, the same kind of display can be found on just about every village green throughout New England and by the courthouse in other Northern states.

My neighborhood includes one of my favorite CW soldier monuments.

Indeed. Civil War statuary is ubiquitous here in Brooklyn too, including the beautiful Grand Army Plaza. (See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Army_Plaza) Its ubiquity is testimony to the war’s place in the American imagination in the decades after the war.

What was interesting about the ones in North Texas is that generally speaking the people who built them (the veterans and/or their immediate descendants) were not from the area during the Civil War. The original white settlers were predominantly from Tennessee and left that state in the 1870s due to the devastation cause by the conflict.

Yet there is a fairly significant segment of the population who really don’t like them.

Which is why I made it clear that this is an issue for the residents of that community to decide.

It’s a more complex issue than should be just left to the tyranny of the majority

Hmmm… I thought that was called democracy when people from different backgrounds can come together to talk about how their community will remember and commemorate the past.

Yes its democracy, and as Alexander Hamilton rightly observed ‘Democracy is mobocracy” and that is why we live in a Republic that protects the rights of the minority.
It was local rule that brought us discrimination at lunch counters and schools, all approved by the local majority, it took the greater law of the Constitution to right that. sometimes the majority is wrong.

like I said it is a complex issue. and remembering the past and celebrating it are different things

It was local rule that brought us discrimination at lunch counters and schools, all approved by the local majority, it took the greater law of the Constitution to right that. sometimes the majority is wrong.

Yes, local rule that failed to include a significant portion of the population. That is not the case in reference to the Reidsville statue.

How so? is everybody in Reidsville White?
If a Jesse Jackson called for a boycott would they get ripped like the SCV was for being interfering outsiders?

Like you I do get a kick out of seeing the CSA on the statues but I can see others might not.

I have no idea what point you are trying to make. Sorry.

The point is there is a segment of the population who see those statues not as remembering the past but as instead celebrating a past of their oppression.

Since when is this news? My post in no way denies this fact.

Yes, it should be repaired and returned to the original location… perhaps with some added traffic protection!

Monument Avenue in Richmond is the the good example. What the past memorialized is a lesson in history for us and those who follow us. Now, what we memorialize will tell who we were. They part of the sequence of our society.

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