St. Paul’s Episcopal Takes a Stand on Confederate History and Memory
St. Paul’s Episcopal in Richmond has announced that it will remove many of the objects that venerate the Confederacy, including specifically those items featuring the Confederate flag. Items that will be removed include six plaques. Plaques honoring Davis’s wife and daughter will be modified as will the church’s coat of arms. The church also plans to erect a memorial to those slaves that were members of the community. [I wrote about the public history side of this controversy back in early October.]
The news article includes an attachment that offers some insight into the process by which members decided what would stay and what would be removed or modified. I highlighted one small section below.
- Any memorial given in memory of family should stay
- Distinguish between private memorials and monuments to “the cause”
- Keep symbols and show love
- Learn from history of symbols rather than removing
- Know more about which are offensive; history
- Need more symbols of who this church is today
I would like to know more about why two plagues honoring Lee and Davis were removed but the not the stained-glass windows that feature the two as biblical characters.
Regardless of where you stand, it is clear that this church engaged in a careful process to figure out the best way forward. It may even offer a model for other institutions that are facing similar challenges.
What we do need to dispense with are the tired cries that history is being erased or that the St. Paul’s community is judging the past by modern standards or values. It should be apparent that this community is facing its collective past head on and trying to re-frame its relationship to that past. One of the things pointed out in the attached outline is the belief that the concerns of current members are more important than the history of a building. That makes perfect sense to me, especially if that building is a place of worship.
Finally, it is true that the community made a judgement about its Confederate iconography based on modern standards as did the very same community when it chose to dedicate them decades ago.