About Those Confederate Monument Polls

This past week the city of Pittsboro, North Carolina removed a Confederate statue from in front of the courthouse. It had stood on public property since 1907. The removal brought out a small group of people representing both sides of the issue, but overall there appears to have been little impact on the community itself.

Confederate Statue, Pittsboro, NC

In the days following the removal a number of polls were published that showed that the majority of North Carolinians are in favor of keeping these statues and other Confederate memorials in place. Neo-Confederate websites have highlighted these polls in support of their position.

Here’s the thing. Even if these polls are accurate, they are entirely irrelevant.

No local or state polls were taken at the height of Confederate monument dedications during the Jim Crow-era to gauge public opinion. No poll was taken in communities where African Americans made up more than 50% of the population. In fact, during this period African Americans were prevented from taking part in commemorative activities in former Confederate states and beyond.

If polls had been taken or if African Americans were allowed to take part in the commemorative process, does anyone really believe that Confederate statues would have been selected to represent the shared history and values of the community? I think not.

These monuments will stand or fall depending on the will of local communities or, more specifically, on the efforts of individuals and organizations at the grassroots level who push the debate forward.

About the author: Thank you for taking the time to read this post. What next? Scroll down and join the discussion in the comments section. Looking for more Civil War content? You can follow me on Twitter. Check out my forthcoming book, Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, which is the first book-length analysis of the black Confederate myth ever published. Pre-order your copy today.

88 comments… add one
  • paineite Nov 23, 2019 @ 14:15

    Thanks for keeping the homefires lit on this issue. Just received your book about a week ago. Will get into it soon.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 23, 2019 @ 14:19

      Thanks. Hope you enjoy it.

  • James Harriman Nov 23, 2019 @ 14:40

    Those of us in Charlottesville are impatiently awaiting the next legislative session, when we hope and expect the new Democratic majority to repeal the law that has prevented us from getting rid of our now-infamous statues of Lee and Jackson. It can’t come soon enough, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the neoconfederates and assorted riffraff show up to complain.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 23, 2019 @ 15:12

      This is indeed going to be interesting.

    • Buck Buchanan Nov 23, 2019 @ 15:44

      You and I both. Here in Prince George our World War 2 monument lists the men killed in combat by NAME and COLORED.

      This right outside a major US Army installation names for the chief traitor, FT Lee.

      • Randolph Watkins Nov 24, 2019 @ 10:15

        As for the Prince George County Monument, if there was no differentiation between white and African-American soldiers on the monument, anyone looking at it might never now that African-Americans served during WWII or any war. There is a flag pole near the tennis courts in Richmond’s Byrd Park. It has a plaque on one side with the names of WWI African-American dead and white soldiers names on the other three. About 20 years ago a complaint was made about the segregation of the names. My reaction was that to intersperse the African-American’s names with the others would erase any reference to their contribution to war effort. To forget or disguise their service would have been a tragedy. Not enough Americans know enough about their history without being reminded.

      • Leonard Lanier Nov 24, 2019 @ 13:34

        In North Carolina, numerous counties list only the white dead from both World Wars on their commorative monuments. Most, but not all, did better for Korea and Vietnam.

      • William Froh Nov 24, 2019 @ 16:26

        Well colored was the polite term of the time. So don’t get too upset. They were honored for their sacrifice. It’s a no win situation. It you mentioned their race someone might think that the were ”real Americans ” . If you don’t mention their race you miss lead people to think they were all white.

      • Southerner Nov 25, 2019 @ 7:00

        General Lee was a great General and was Lincoln’s first choice to lead the union army, but declined. Slavery was a problem in the north as well as the South. Please note that Lincoln freed all the slaves in the South why not the north as well? Northern folks should clean up their own backyards before judging the South.

        • Jason Nov 25, 2019 @ 12:42

          Amen brother amen!

    • Diane Hyra Nov 24, 2019 @ 5:03

      Yes. I was going to comment on the upcoming legislative session, too. Living in Richmond, I cannot imagine the monuments here will ever be taken down. The best we can hope for, I think, is signage with explanations. We’ll see.

    • Loris Lepri Nov 24, 2019 @ 13:27

      The irony. Democrats put those monuments up, now they take them down. How fitting.

      • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 13:57

        And Republicans largely defend them. Go figure.

        • Jim Chrismer Nov 24, 2019 @ 20:37

          Forget party designation of a given era. The fact is that it was conservatives who erected the monuments and conservatives who now defend them. It was liberals and moderates who enacted the 13-15th Amendments and the same coalition who passed the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s.

    • Tim Norton Nov 24, 2019 @ 23:50

      I hope no more statues or monuments are taken down, the liberal Democrats are responsible for this tragedy,reminds me of the real ISIS and natzi Germany

      • rarerootbeer Nov 25, 2019 @ 20:26

        What tragedy? Taking down statues is part of being part of the real ISIS, so not taking them down is part of the “unreal” ISIS? natzi Germany, is that a fan club of the nationals? The tragedy is the lack of proper spelling.

  • Billy Wetherington Nov 23, 2019 @ 15:00

    Lost Causes are hard to kill.

    • Michael B Pisano Nov 24, 2019 @ 12:27

      Such a shame to be removing our country’s history!!!

      • Skip Fap Nov 24, 2019 @ 17:22

        Do away with all monuments for everthing or anybody change state names like the duke of york (new york) then name everything numerical

  • Andy Hall Nov 24, 2019 @ 9:09

    Neo-Confederate websites have highlighted these polls in support of their position.

    It goes beyond that, though. They often post links to polls on blogs or social media urging their supporters to participate, which further skews the results in their favor. Then they cite the results, that they’ve actively worked to generate an outcome favorable to their position. Polls like this are unscientific to start with, because they usually allow voting by anyone, anywhere, and so don’t actually reflect the views of people in that state or community, but the Confederate Heritage™ folks degrade what little value they might have by their own efforts to get their preferred outcome.

    Of course, one of their underlying premises is that the large majority of the general public supports them in the preservation of Confederate iconography unchanged and unchallenged. This is a variation of Richard Nixon’s invocation of the “great silent majority” in the face of widespread criticism over the war in Vietnam. In truth, the large majority of the general public isn’t really engaged on the subject much one way or another, even after Charleston and Charlottesville, and so polls that show a preference for leaving monuments as they are is much more likely to reflect a general indifference to the subject, rather than any sort of commitment to the old Confederacy or Lost Cause ideology.

    In the broader sense, that sort of thinking is really damaging to the future of civil discourse and the long-term prospects of the Republic. The heritage folks talk a lot about the importance of local governance and respecting the will of the people, but they suddenly lose their respect and commitment to the principles of representative democracy when elected officials like those in Pittsboro, Richmond, Lexington, or a hundred other locations make a decision they dislike. When that happens, they’re apt to be just as nasty and bigoted as their critics say they are. Know them for who they are.

  • Jay Smith Nov 24, 2019 @ 10:15

    Stupid people, can’t change history no matter what. If you don’t like the statue, simple don’t look at it.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 10:29

      You certainly can’t change history, but you can change how a community commemorates the past, which they have every right to do.

      • RamZ Nov 24, 2019 @ 13:41

        Thank goodness for scholars and intellectuals who do the hard research, study, ask the tough questions, then present their findings to the rest of us … that we may find ourselves more educated, as we verify their work. Uhhhh … that would be a grateful me. 😳

    • Keith Nov 24, 2019 @ 16:54

      We need to purge all history…there was no bombing of peral harbor…by the Japanese…no Nazi concentration camps killing people of Jewish heratige….our once great nation trusted in the God of Abraham…oh… Abraham had his flaws also…I’m offended when I see a small child who never meets his sperm donor dad…we are reaping what we have sown for the last 60 years….tearing down history and it’s truth want set you free from a life of bondage…if it did I would be in favor of it…

  • London John Nov 24, 2019 @ 11:01

    A statue of a person commemorates something particular about them and was put up for a particular reason. The statues of Confederate generals comemorate their fight to defend slavery and nothing else about them, and were put up after the abandonment of reconstruction to celebrate the reimposition of White supremacy. So they should be taken down. The effect would be diluted if statues of Union heroes also had to come down because some of them were war criminals of the Indian Wars. The statues commemorate saving the Union and destroying slavery, so should stay whatever else the subjects did.
    That’s my understanding, and it matters here in the UK because we are now having our own “statue wars” somewhat in imitation of those in the US. Some people take the view that statues should come down if there was anything bad about the subject (Churchill, Nelson, even Gandhi!), whereas I maintain we should target those statues that commemorate bad causes, eg that of general Havelock in Trafalgar Square in London commemorates the defeat of the Indian uprising of 1857 and so the crimes committed by British forces in its suppression and implicitly another 90 years of colonial rule in India.

  • Don Ksiazek Nov 24, 2019 @ 11:19

    In the spirit of “contextualizing” the monument issue, let’s be fair and remove statues commemorating Union officers that went on to systematically exterminate the American Indian. This group would include the “Great Father’s” Lincoln, Grant, and Hayes.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 12:37

      You are free to call for their removals and to organize others to achieve this goal.

  • Ken Knox Nov 24, 2019 @ 11:20

    If you judge history by the ones at or close to the time of the event, you will see most histories of Robert E. Lee saw him as an honorable man yet a tragic figure. People at that time looked differently at their home state than now. The country was still relatively young. While Lee was the most highly regarded officer of the United States Army by both Winfield Scott and Abraham Lincoln, Lee could not fight against his family and fellow Virginians. After being offered the job as commander of the Union forces by Lincoln, Lee anguished overnight what to do. After the surrender four and a half years later, R.E. Lee did more to keep the peace than any other man and chastised people who were critical of General Grant.
    If Lee had accepted Lincoln’s offer, led Union troops for awhile then switched sides to the Confederate Army for personal gain, he could be accused of being a traitor. Only then. He was up front and did not try to trick President Lincoln. Lee gave up everything. Benadict Arnold tried to gain position and riches. Arnold was a traitor, not Lee. Saying Lee was a traitor is a blind, uninformed, and ignorant statement. Please stop
    judging history from current morays and try to put yourself into the way people thought at the time. Beliefs of the past doesn’t make sense at times, but the same will be said about beliefs of many today.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 12:36

      The country was still relatively young. While Lee was the most highly regarded officer of the United States Army by both Winfield Scott and Abraham Lincoln, Lee could not fight against his family and fellow Virginians.

      There were a number of Virginians and other southern graduates of West Point who did not turn their backs on their oaths to defend the Constitution. They had just as difficult a choice to make and yet we celebrate Lee.

      • Joel Fetner Nov 24, 2019 @ 19:01

        Lee didn’t turn his back on his oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign AND DOMESTIC. He was in fact defending the Constitution against the US government that was violating it

        • Kevin Levin Nov 25, 2019 @ 2:42

          That’s one hell of a way to defend the Constitution. Good luck with that.

  • Duff Mason Nov 24, 2019 @ 11:42

    All Confederate monuments should remain exactly where they are. I consider their removal a serious social crime and a part of the left-wing agenda of corrupted and revisionist history.

  • Jeff Johnson Nov 24, 2019 @ 12:19

    History reshaping does everyone a disservice. We don’t have to like it, but we should remember it’s cost.

  • Let people have a voice Nov 24, 2019 @ 13:48

    Ok tyrant listen to this. You say it don’t matter if the majority of a town wants to keep the statues of their kin because of something I’m guessing your assuming happened 100 years ago. Your saying it’s ok to take away the people’s voice. The people’s vote. The people’s rights. You probably cheer when antifa terrorists tear gas children because you don’t like their parents. You are a communist redcoat french tyrant and you can go to the third level of hell where the devil comes from. Europe. I’m sick of you alt left lying bully tyrants

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 13:56

      You obviously didn’t read the post carefully enough. I do hope you now feel better.

  • Amanda Johnson Nov 24, 2019 @ 13:56

    As being an artist myself, it’s someone’s work. Then there’s issue with what it stands for. This country was built on rebellion. Standing up for what you believe in. So it’s not a popular ideology. It’s still a symbol of what American is. Everyone done something it shouldn’t completely overshadow everything theyvth done. Attacking Ben Franklin for owning slaves what about George Washington? And countless others?

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 13:59

      Right, in this case it was a slaveholders rebellion. I guess the descendants of people whose great grandparents would have continued to be enslaved in an independent Confederacy would rather not have their public spaces celebrate such a thing.

      • Scott Proctor Nov 25, 2019 @ 16:40

        There is no reason to believe that slavery would have continued in the Confederacy if they had won the war. It was already unpopular before the war with the vast majority of freemen (black and white) who had to compete with slave labor rates to get work, or with goods harvested by slaves at a lower cost than they could be produced with non-slave labor. Slavery was an economic necessity to the wealthy who didn’t want to pay freemen wages. By all accounts, it would have died out as an institution throughout the entire country within 20 years if the war hadn’t begun.

        Punishing the (non-racist) descendants of Confederates by removing memorials to their war “heros” serves no justice for them or for the descendants of slaves.

        Removing Confederate statues, names, and remembrances is pure bigotry, retribution, and simply revenge. There is no justice, and no peace by continuing to fight against people whose “lost cause” is now simply heritage.

        • Kevin Levin Nov 25, 2019 @ 17:01

          This contradicts everything we now know about the place of slavery in the Confederacy and what southerners themselves said about it right up through the end of the war.

          • Scott Proctor Nov 26, 2019 @ 11:54

            Make that “Southern Leaders”, and I’d agree. The average working man had different ideas about it.

  • Carl coontz Nov 24, 2019 @ 14:02

    I had many family members fight for the south none wer’e slave owners when I see statues of Jackson or Lee I see brilliant war strategist as far as slavery goes decendants should celebrate their heritage removing one ‘s heritage does’t solve a problem it creates another

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 14:05

      For many Americans whether Confederate soldiers owned slaves or not, they fought for a nation whose purpose was the establishment of an independent slaveholding republic.

      • David Lester Nov 25, 2019 @ 4:37

        Being a historian who has visited and spent countless hours at the library of Congress along with the National Archives in a span of over 35 years I ask if you’ve ever spent an hour at either?..The first thing you have to consider when you study any part of the past is to look at the frame of mind as to the generation you’re studying..As far as the slavery debate, if slavery is the only bullet you have in your gun then you’ve lost the argument from the get go..You need to go read the actual writings from the men of that period as per say Lincoln himself who was well known for stating he would do whatever it took to save the union even if it kept slavery in place..Go take a look at the original proposed 13th ammendment penned in May of 1861..The issue of slavery and racism was a problem with the entire country not just the south..Lincolns plan was to free the slaves and ship them out of the country as the populous of the north wanted..They simply didnt want the slaves in the country at all..The mindset of the entire country including Lincoln was that America was a white mans country..

        • Kevin Levin Nov 25, 2019 @ 4:51

          I actually spoke at the National Archives this past September. How about you? 🙂

  • Weeziefbaby Nov 24, 2019 @ 14:15

    Want to “preserve history”? That’s what history Books are for. 😍😘😇🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

  • jjhoffman Nov 24, 2019 @ 15:09

    If the majority of people want the monuments to remain where they are then they should remain where they are. Just because someone is offended by something doesn’t give anyone the right to remove it. Why isn’t it put to a vote & let the majority speak that’s how our country used to be. When the wishes of a small group of people infringes on the rights of the rest of the people that’s the beginning of our own destruction

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 15:13

      Local government held hearings and voted on it. The people have spoken. There was absolutely nothing un-democratic about this decision.

  • Dennis Cotner Nov 24, 2019 @ 15:30

    It boils down to two major issues (along with some minor ones). In recent years years there has been a penchant to ‘Nazify’ the Confederacy. If the ‘take em down’ crowd uses this attack they’ve certainly not studied the era of the civil war. There’s no comparison to Hitler’s Germany. This is done to make southerners look evil be they slave owners or not. They also do it to make the Union and it’s defense of ‘saving the Union and eradicating slavery’ as a heaven sanctified mission and to gloss over the war crimes committed to defend their war aims. The Confederacy also didn’t have to be formed if both sides had worked even harder to settle their differences before the guns started shooting. As is usually the case Americans are, and haven’t, been patient they rush headlong into things before all avenues are exhausted.
    Secondly, the monuments in question are no more an intimidating factor than I am the Pope. These memorials were put up to have communities remember their sons in the defense of their communities. Southerners recognized well enough that they lost the war but that didn’t mean that her soldiers were evil or necessarily wrong in their decisions. With little left following the war these memorials gave the survivors and their families a comfort that they weren’t forgotten in the new situation the country was moving.
    All this being said the problem could be easily solved by letting these monuments alone but to create new ones to those who were forgotten or ignored. This to me seems to be the best way to not only understand that our past is important, warts and all, but that we continue to add to our story without the ugliness that has prevailed over these pieces of art. It hurts me deeply that people in our country feel they must resort to vandalism and ‘hiding it’s past. We are to quick to make judgments on the past through a present day microscope. Don’t. Build up, don’t tear down. Learning isn’t relagated to just books and brick and mortar museums, everywhere in our country is a museum. If you don’t realize that by looking at the Mall in Washington DC then you’ve learned nothing. Quit holding grudges, appreciate each other. If you don’t then you really have no respect for those in our past who fought for us to be better and to understand who our ancestors truly were.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 15:36

      Turns out some people don’t believe that these monuments/memorials in public spaces reflect the collective values of the community. They have every right to work to see them removed.

      • Scott Proctor Nov 26, 2019 @ 12:16

        But does it also give them the right to call the people who want to keep the statues “racists”? And, what collective values of the community are reflected by the statues? Heritage? Memorial for fallen soldiers who were defending their homes from invaders? Reverence for the dead? Those values seem to be missing from those who blame people in the present for the past.

        Still looks like revenge and retribution against the descendants…

  • Jody Hoffman Nov 24, 2019 @ 15:38

    How can you say that the polls are irrelevant? What is wrong with you? The majority of the people want to see the monuments remain where they are that should end the issue. The public should be able to vote on whether the monuments remain or not & however it comes out it needs to be accepted & end the issue. We are supposed to live in a democracy and in a democracy majority opinion rules, a group of people may not like it but they have to accept it, our military has been fighting in the Middle East for years now because we are bringing democracy to the citizens and the entire time we have lost ours. Now for a dose of reality, everyone was a racist in the 19th century New York City had a riot in 1863 & blacks were hung from the street lights, entire regiments were talking about not fighting if Lincoln freed the slaves, 90% of the population called them darkies & thought that they were ignorant & inferior. If you want to remove a monument because it honors someone who you think was a racist start with your own ancestors.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 15:43

      Local government in Pittsboro voted to remove it. They represent local residents, who, if they choose to do so can vote them out of office. There was nothing mysterious or un-democratic about what happened last week.

  • David A Wade Nov 24, 2019 @ 16:16

    Abraham Lincoln and his cronies were guilty of atrocities and war crimes that waged war on innocent civilians. Leave our monuments alone.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 24, 2019 @ 16:37

      Regardless of what you believe about Lincoln, the future of local Confederate monuments and memorials will be determined by the people who care enough to weigh in on the debate and their ability to influence elected officials.

  • James Harrigan Nov 24, 2019 @ 17:03

    I couldn’t agree more with all the fervent pleas to “let the people decide” the future of Confederate statues. This is exactly what the people of Charlottesville want: the right to control our own public space. Our city council voted 5-0 to remove Lee and Jackson. It is past time for them to go.

  • Joseph Stansberry Nov 24, 2019 @ 20:15

    I think you are right we should just remove all status, monuments, and burn all books pertaining to history. Actually anything that some people don’t agree with, far out ways whatever the majority thinks. But like I said let’s not just stop with Confederate status and monuments that mean nothing to you let’s get all the status, monuments, and street names that do nothing for me. Now do you see how stupid your stance is. There are literally kids starving, people dieing with cancer and other diseases but all you racist bigoted people can think about is how to further sow hatred and division . Shame on you and all who follow you. Grow up ,get a life. Wake up America these people have one agenda and that is distruction.

  • John Oliver Land Nov 25, 2019 @ 6:24

    Confederate monuments should be left alone. Taking them down is wrong. They honor real men of the South. Wish we had men like them around today. Deo Vindice!!

    • Kevin Levin Nov 25, 2019 @ 6:26

      We should all be thankful that the Confederacy lost.

      • Roger Watson Nov 26, 2019 @ 6:34

        Amen to that brother !

  • Andersonh1 Nov 25, 2019 @ 8:18

    If the polls ran the opposite direction, with a strong majority favoring removal of these monuments, you’d be championing them. You discount them because almost all of them run counter to your opinion.

    It is a small minority of activists agitating for the removal of these memorials, and the will of the majority is being ignored time and time again.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 25, 2019 @ 8:24

      My position has been consistent from the beginning. Ultimately, these are local decisions.

  • Rob Wick Nov 25, 2019 @ 9:52

    It would be interesting to see how many council members have been thrown out of office since monuments started to be removed. Of course, one would have to look at the overall picture as to why someone lost or won. With the exception of the neo-Confederates, i don’t imagine too many people would vote based on this issue alone.

    • James Harrigan Nov 25, 2019 @ 10:21

      Rob, here in Charlottesville we just had the first municipal election since the Nazi/Neoconfederate assault on our town. None of the councilors who voted 5-0 to get rid of our statues of Lee and Jackson were on the ballot. The statues were not an important issue in the campaign, with all candidates except one supporting removal. The lone anti-removal candidate did not run on the issue, and lost.

    • Andy Hall Nov 25, 2019 @ 11:45

      Rob, after having watched these cases play out over the last decade, more or less, my gut is that very few elected officials get turned out of office because they opposed Confederate monuments. I agree that only a small share of voters, wherever they come down on the question, feel strongly enough to make it a make-or-break issue when they go to the polls. Very often the loudest shouting comes from people outside the city, county, or state involved.

      Lexington may be a useful example in this regard. In the fall of 2011 the city passed an ordinance prohibiting any but official national, state, or city flags to be flown from city property. This ended the long-standing practice of putting up Confederate flags on city light poles for Lee-Jackson Day in January. That state holiday usually falls on or near MLK’s birthday, so the contrast was particularly sharp.

      The hearings at the council meeting before the vote went of for (IIRC) three hours of more. News coverage at the time noted that almost every Lexington resident who spoke that evening favored the change, those from elsewhere in Rockbridge County were about evenly split, and those from outside the county were uniformly opposed to it (i.e., wanted to keep the Confederate flag display n place).

      After the vote, Confederate Heritage™ groups organized a campaign, “Boot Elrod,” to defeat Lexington Mayor Mimi Elrod in her bid for reelection in 2012. The Virginia Flaggers, in particular, were all-in on the campaign to push her out. Elrod ran against her previous opponent in the 2008 election, who was also to one member of the City Council who had voted to keep the flags. But except for the “Boot Elrod” folks, most of whom were not from Lexington, the flag ordinance appears to have not been an issue. Neither candidate campaigned on it or mentioned it on their website, and in the end Elrod was reelected with a solid 63% of the vote — a slightly larger margin than the first time around about the same opponent. Her support of the flag ordinance in 2011 appears not to have hurt her at all. After the election, one Flagger — who lives two or three states away from Lexington, BTW — complained that the Boot Elrod campaign “so gloriously began was allowed to die an inglorious death by the people in and around Lexington that should have kept it alive.” That’s another way of saying the actual residents of Lexington didn’t actually support it.

      Anyway, to get back to your point, I agree. The debate over Confederate monuments doesn’t rally engage most voters, who (if they’re tied in to local issues at all) are usually more focused on potholes, traffic problems, and property taxes.

      • Kevin Levin Nov 25, 2019 @ 11:52

        The debate over Confederate monuments doesn’t rally engage most voters…

        Even in New Orleans I suspect that most people who opposed their removal have moved on with their lives. I suspect that these debates aren’t really about monuments, but about larger cultural issues.

        • Andy Hall Nov 25, 2019 @ 11:58

          When the essential history of this period is written, it’s going to be New Orleans in May 2017 — not Charlottesville the following August — that in time will be seen as the turning point. The heritage folks pulled out all the stops, accompanied by klansmen, League of the South secessionists, and all sorts of other odious folks, and accomplished nothing. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after witnessing that nasty clown show, Jeff Davis took a header off that monument on his own.

  • rarerootbeer Nov 25, 2019 @ 20:19

    North Carolina has been a colony and state far longer than being part of the Confederacy. Why represent only four years of rebellion and not part of the other over 200 years?

    • Andy Hall Nov 26, 2019 @ 7:24

      Great question. The Confederate Heritage™ folks are quick to point out that (in their view) it’s unfair to associate the Confederacy so closely with slavery, because that government lasted for only four years compared to slavery’s centuries-long persistence in the U.S. and the colonies before 1865.

      At the same time, though, these same folks’ notion of “the South” is completely and utterly bound up in the symbols of that same, brief period in the long, long history of the region, and they view the removal or alteration of Confederate iconography not as an affront to the Confederacy but of the entire South, past and present, as a whole. Go figure.

  • Hoss Gilmer Nov 25, 2019 @ 20:49

    Leave the monuments alone, the Civil.War happened, there were heros and sacrifices on both sides. Slavery happened, it was the norm, rather than the exception at that time . Brothers familys split on the issue, brothers fought brothers , fathers,fought sons. It was a bloody defining place in our history and growth as a nation. Removing statues does not erase history, does not change the fact that no one living was there to experience the slavery, or the issues facing the States at that time. Its past history, cant be changed by removing statues, some that are true works of period art. It happened, its history, get over it and move on. Life us hard enough day to day to be stuck in a war that happened before most of our great grandparents were even born.

  • Andy Hall Nov 26, 2019 @ 7:31

    “Slavery happened, it was the norm, rather than the exception at that time.”

    Not in most of the United States, it wasn’t. In 1860, slaveholding was a distinctly, almost uniquely, a southern thing. Own it.

    • Scott Proctor Nov 26, 2019 @ 11:51

      True, at the time, it was a “Southern thing” in the U.S., because blacks weren’t welcome in the “North”, and many Northern states passed laws to prevent blacks from living in them. Racism in the “North” was (and still is) worse than in the “South”, in spite of slavery.

      • Kevin Levin Nov 26, 2019 @ 12:24

        Racism in the “North” was (and still is) worse than in the “South”, in spite of slavery.

        I’ll just leave that here.

      • Andy Hall Nov 27, 2019 @ 7:03

        You’re a straight-up slavery apologist, Scott. Not too many people willing to do that these days. Well done!

        • Kevin Levin Nov 27, 2019 @ 7:54

          That’s a Lost Cause Hall of Fame comment if ever there was one.

          • Andy Hall Nov 27, 2019 @ 8:25

            It pops up from time to time, this assertion that because some northern states had “black laws” that restricted or prohibited free African Americans, they were therefore “more racist” and immoral than the southerners who bought and sold enslaved people like livestock. It’s a strange delusion, but not an uncommon one with these folks.

            Remember what the late Dick Gregory said about racial attitudes, north and south — “up north, they don’t care how big I get, so long as I don’t get too close. Down south, they don’t care how close I get, so long as I don’t get too big.” There’s a lot of truth in that.

        • Scott Proctor Nov 28, 2019 @ 3:59

          No, Andy, not “slavery”, you should have said that I am a “Southern” apologist. I’ll be polite here, and just say that your comment is simply untruthful.

          I was talking about racism, not slavery. Not the same thing. Also, see my (longer) comment below for additional expansion.

      • Roger Watson Nov 27, 2019 @ 9:13

        “Racism in the “North” was (and still is) worse than in the “South”, in spite of slavery.”

        Scott, that is so far from the truth it makes you look comical at best !! Born in 1945 in Mass. Never saw a sign saying “Whites Only”. Never saw a “Coloreds Only” drinking fountain. I also attended schools from day 1 that weren’t segregated. How many of you Southern gentlemen can say that ? Had to be the late 60’s or may be even, for the diehards, early 70’s !!! You Lost Causers really don’t get it !!

      • Scott Proctor Nov 28, 2019 @ 3:44

        Roger, Andy, and Kevin… my apologies. My statement SHOULD have been: “In my personal experience, racism in the North was (and still is) worse than in the South.” Your own experiences may have been different, and if so… then good for you.

        Yes, Andy, partly it has to do with the fact that many northern States drove blacks out and had laws preventing black residentcy. Which is why Massachusetts only had a 2% black population as late as 1950 when you were growing up there, Roger. And which also resulted in so much “White Flight” when driving them out of white neighborhoods with violence and economic isolationism failed. I guess you think that letting blacks have their own separate (but equal, as the policy was stated) communities and businesses (in the South) is more racist then denying them the very opportunity to live next to whites (in the North)? Or are you part of the “Ship them back to Africa” crowd, which was also very popular in the North?

        Oh, Andy, New York City had the largest African slave market in the country for decades…

        The North has a lot of guilt in racism (and slavery) that you seem to deny. You also conflate slavery with racism, and they are 2 very different things. Slavery is about money, economics, and the cost of labor. Racism is about ancestry. And, Roger, being from MA., chances are about 30% or so that you are Irish. Surely you heard of Irish slavery? Or do you consider that a myth, like the so-called “Black Confederate Myth” that Kevin espouses in his book, in spite of plenty of evidence to the contrary? (No, don’t ask… we research in different ways, and your minds are already made up.)

        No, you resort to denigration and name calling, and hiding behind your own bigotry and hatred of all things “Southern”, demonizing and blaming and punishing the South and ALL Southerners for ALL the racism and hatred in the country, and totally ignoring the fact that it was, and still is a problem on both sides of the Mason Dixon.

        If my saying that the North has just as much racist baggage as the South makes me an apologist for the South, then so be it. But, Andy, saying that I’m a Slavery apologist is nothing more than a lie and a personal attack. I never said anything defending the institution of slavery. It continues to be the same despicable institution today that it was 100 years ago, 300 years ago, and more than 3000 years ago.

        No, attacking me for my opinions only exposes your own bigotry. And if you are unable to look at the situation from a different perspective, especially if you don’t agree with it, you will never truly understand it.

        • Kevin Levin Nov 28, 2019 @ 4:06

          I live in Boston. Racism is alive and well here. That said, I don’t know what this has to do with the post. The controversy surrounding the history and memory of Confederate monuments certainly encompasses the history of racism, but it also goes way beyond it.

          • Scott Proctor Nov 28, 2019 @ 5:25

            Kevin, true, the conversation has taken a turn away from the original subject. My comment above was merely to clarify my earlier statement that “triggered” so many to personally defame me for said comment.

            On subject:
            If the statues and memorials had language or imagery that pointed out the supremacy of whites over blacks, then they should be removed. Period! If, however, they are simply recognizing the sacrifices of local residents (regardless of the cause espoused by their leaders) who saw themselves as defending their homes, then they should be left alone. Period!

            The problems arise based on how these pieces of art are interpreted. Those who have race only on their minds will see them as racist, while those who have heritage on their minds will not. Art is supposed to be interpreted by the viewer, but in this case, when the viewer doesn’t like their own interpretation, they want the art destroyed to prevent the non-racial viewers from enjoying it. (The true racist in this scenario is obvious to me.)

            When local elected officials make the irrevocable decisions to remove legitimate war memorials without a public vote on the subject, they go beyond their commission. Polls can be (and frequently are) skewed to whatever ideology the poll taker wants them to lean towards, and generally are not reliable reflections of the community as a whole. Therefore, all polls should be taken “with a grain of salt”, but not discounted entirely. We can learn a lot from polls.

            (Kevin, is this a little more the direction you would like the conversation to take? I’m trying to be respectful here… seriously!)

            Thank you!

            • Kevin Levin Nov 28, 2019 @ 5:33

              Thanks for the clarification. For many people these monuments are an attempt to give legitimacy to a cause that at its center was the preservation of slavery. Americans, especially African Americans, have protested these monuments from the beginning. Unfortunately, they were prevented through legal means from taking part in these conversations until relatively recently. Of course, these monuments are open to interpretation, but whether they should be removed or not is a local question that will be decided by those who choose to get involved. Whether a poll or vote is taken is irrelevant. Residents have an opportunity to vote for the people who ultimately make these decisions.

              • Scott Proctor Nov 28, 2019 @ 5:51

                I understand the discomfort and concern that some black Amercans have regarding the statues as well as the pains suffered because of the hatred and insults levied on the (non-racist) defenders of the statues, and agree totally that it should be a local decision, but I differ with you on WHO should make that decision. I believe that it should purely be put to a vote of the people instead of being decided by elected officials. It is too polarizing and controversial an issue to be left in the hands of a small group of people, even if they were elected by those same people.

                Still, removing war memorials looks to me more like revenge for the past instead of justice for the present.

                Again, thank you for your articles. They are interesting, even though there are many points I do not see eye to eye with you on.

                p.s. Happy Thanksgiving!

              • Kevin Levin Nov 28, 2019 @ 5:58

                I believe that it should purely be put to a vote of the people instead of being decided by elected officials.

                I can’t think of a single community that did not first take part in organized public discussions about these issues before elected officials voted. Your notion of revenge is another person’s justice.

                Happy Thanksgiving

  • London John Nov 29, 2019 @ 4:34

    It seems to me that a problem with each community taking its own decision about its own statues is that the community that decides to remove a statue also has to decide what to do with it. The erection of these statues, mostly at the re-establishment of White Supremacy after the abandonment of Reconstruction, was itself a significant event in the history of the South; so at least the most important ones should be preserved somewhere in an explanatory context – maybe a special wing of a museum or something? What do you suggest, Kevin?

    • Kevin Levin Nov 29, 2019 @ 4:42

      They represent significant challenges, beginning with the costs of removal and storage. There are a few examples of monuments/statues going to museums, but that is an option that also raises difficult questions, including space and costs.

  • London John Nov 30, 2019 @ 10:38

    There seems to be a theme among the statue-keepers that these statues are the heritage of “the South” and represent all “Southern men”. I guess that makes it clear that they don’t regard Black Southerners as part of “the South”. No surprise there. They also ignore the significant numbers of White southerners with no stake in slavery who either volunteered to fight for the Union or at least did all they could to avoid being forced to fight for the Confederacy. They’re not represented either. How about a statue to the “Unknown Confederate Deserter”? I believe they helped to save the Union, in their way.
    As for what motivated Confederate soldiers to fight, do you you think it would be possible to do a post on this some time, Kevin, rather than having it continually discussed in other contexts?

    • Kevin Levin Nov 30, 2019 @ 12:27

      I’ve written about the question of motivation throughout the life of this blog.

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