Louisville To Remove Confederate Monument

A number of cities across the country have or are currently engaged in debates about the place of Confederate monuments on public ground. New Orleans recently voted to remove four monuments, but has yet to follow through. Only the University of Texas at Austin has removed Civil War related monuments from campus. Today, the city of Louisville and the University of Louisville announced that a major Confederate monument will be removed immediately from public land adjacent to the campus.

The fourteen minute presentation is worth watching. You can even see that the equipment behind the monument is ready to go. What I find interesting is that not even the development of the nearby “Freedom Park” was sufficient to quell concerns about the presence of a Confederate monument. We often hear that additions to the commemorative landscape allow for monuments to be placed in conversation with one another, but that apparently was not considered as an alternative to removal.

I was struck by a comment made by Mayor Greg Fischer in response to concerns that the removal of this monument is tantamount to erasing history, which is a claim that is often expressed:

I recognize that some people say this monument should stay here because it is history, but I also appreciate that we can make our own history.

It is certainly the case that Kentucky’s Civil War memory is much more complicated than what was shared in this brief presentation. For those of you who are interested in the subject I highly recommend Anne Marshall’s book, Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State.

For now it looks like the people of Louisville have chosen to tell a new story about their past that more accurately reflects their current values.

14 thoughts on “Louisville To Remove Confederate Monument

  1. Richard McCormick

    Thanks for sharing that. I had not seen it.

    Marshall’s book is fascinating, one of my favorites (I am a Kentuckian, so I like seeing stuff like this.)

    I’m currently reading For Slavery & Union, which gives a fascinating account of the relationship between Kentucky, slavery and the Federal government during the war. It seems like a build-up to the story Marshall tells, though I have not gotten to the post-war years yet. Others interested in Kentucky society, economics and politics may want to check it out.

    His Kentucky Became Southern by MaryJeamn Wall is another good one. Much of it focuses on the horse industry, but it does also discuss issues similar to Marshall’s book.

    Reply
  2. Sandi Saunders

    So to what location is it being moved? Will it have any “contextualizing” done at the new dedication? Seems like the left a lot out of the speeches.

    Reply
  3. Andrew Raker

    As a local, I’m surprised the monument is being removed as quickly as it is. Today’s article in the Courier-Journal (http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2016/04/29/ramsey-fischer-discuss-confederate-statue/83695160/) mentions that the first efforts to remove it date to 1947, because it’s in the middle of 3rd Street, and I do think that the need for a turning lane for the recently reopened Speed Museum is one of the top reasons why it’s being moved now. (Another reason is probably to deflect criticism of James Ramsey, who has been under fire from many quarters, including Ricky Jones, the professor who wrote an editorial in the C-J last weekend calling for the monument’s removal.)

    I personally thought U of L did a good job in contextualizing the monument with the addition of the smaller markers a few years ago, which were very informative about Kentucky during the war (and make it clear that, although divided, it was not an equal division – the state, and Louisville in particular – were much more in support of the Union, until the 13th Amendment). But after just re-reading Dr. Jones’ editorial, I am reminded of how much taller the Confederate Monument was than these additions, and nothing could take away how it looms over the landscape (unless an even taller monument to Unionist Kentuckians were added, but, I don’t think that’s in the city’s budget). Designed to stand tall over the city in the year when a GAR reunion was being held a few blocks away, its own height is what has sealed the end for this monument.

    Reply
  4. Corey Meyer

    I have not seen it mentioned, but do they have a plan to re-erect the monument somewhere or will it just “go away”?

    Reply
    1. Andy Hall

      I’m not sure if the temporary injunction means anything other than, wait, everybody slow down and let’s sort this out. Given the city’s apparent urgency in taking the monument down, that’s not an unreasonable position. Precipitous, reflexive action doesn’t really serve anyone.

      As for the plaintiffs, I think it’s going to be a challenge for them to establish standing, or show that removal of the monument constitutes “irreparable harm” to any of them, individually or collectively.

      Ideally, a new location for the monument can be determined before it’s taken down; that would go a long way toward countering Corley’s comment about book burning and other, similar foolishness. The monument has already been moved once, in the 1950s, for something so gauche as a road improvement project, so it’s not as if the current location has any special status in the monument’s history.

      Reply
  5. Eric A. Jacobson

    I continue to be very torn by the removal of such monuments, and I’m glad there was an injunction in this case.

    That said, it really is up to the community what it wants and does not want, and if there are to be legal proceedings then so be it. I think this entire process has taught a lot of folks like myself a great deal about the shifting tides of America. Also, I continue to see my belief reinforced that the Sesquicentennial and the murders in South Carolina were central to the death knell of the modern Lost Cause movement.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Yes, Confederate Veteran is your first stop to understand how the veterans remembered the war and the commemorative spaces they created and nurtured during this period.

      Reply

Now that you've read the post, share your thoughts.