The Connection Between the Confederate Monument Landscape and Disfranchisement

You’ve head it before. The vast majority of Confederate monuments and memorials were dedicated at the height of the Jim Crow-era. The Southern Poverty Law Center released this helpful graph to help visualize this spike in monument dedications between roughly 1890 and 1940.

What made this possible was the disfranchisement of African Americans throughout the former Confederacy. The map below illustrates when legalized disfranchisement took hold, but more importantly, it also shows those areas where African Americans constituted a majority of the population.

It’s a legitimate question to ask how the monument landscape of the South would have been different had African Americans been allowed to take part in the political process that made the wave of Confederate monument dedications possible. This is especially worth asking in connection to those counties where African Americans made up the majority of the population.

Would there be as many Confederate soldier statues on courthouse lawns and more elaborate memorials in prominent public spaces? Would there have been more representations of the black experience during the Civil War? How about black Union soldiers and other commemorations of emancipation?

The question at the center of the Confederate monument debate in 2019 is whether they represent the collective values of the community. The graph and map above suggest that in many parts of the South they never did.

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.

31 comments… add one
  • Chris Barry Dec 1, 2019 @ 6:00

    This is strong evidence. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading your book.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 1, 2019 @ 6:01

      Thanks for the feedback, Chris.

  • John R Parrish Dec 1, 2019 @ 6:54

    So refreshing to have such an unbiased civil war historian…
    Yes, we’ve heard it before…
    Leftist agenda disguised as history…
    Don’t bother posting if you’re not going to let me reply to your retort… Again.
    God bless

    • Kevin Levin Dec 1, 2019 @ 6:56

      Come back when you have a serious response.

    • Jimmy Dick Dec 1, 2019 @ 14:29

      Everyone has a bias. The problem for you is that Kevin used facts while you reject them in favor of your delusions. Here’s a fact to put in your head: Everyone that fought for the Confederacy was a traitor to the United States of America. There is no dispute possible for that fact.

      • Terry Klima Dec 1, 2019 @ 16:34

        Jimmy Dick, quite the contrary! There is a clear and compelling dispute as to your allegation that Confederates were traitors. Perhaps you should research the Congressional appropriations of 1901, 1906, US Public Law 810 and U.S. Public Law 85-425: Sec. 410. While not recognizing Confederate Veterans as US Military Veterans, the appropriations and public laws did bestow a number of benefits to Confederate Veterans similar to the benefits granted to US military Veterans. Such benefits would hardly be extended to traitors.

        • Jimmy Dick Dec 2, 2019 @ 4:01

          That legislation was passed in the spirit of reconciliation. Interestingly, southern legislators naturally supported that legislation. However, let’s also remember that the Confederates were pardoned for their crime of treason shortly after the Civil War. There is no dispute about Confederates being traitors. They were traitors. All you have to do is read the US Constitution.

      • John R Parrish Dec 2, 2019 @ 15:56

        Fort Brag, Fort Banning, Fort Lee, Fort UP Hill, etc…
        Facts are these US military bases were named after Heroes, not Traitors…
        God bless

        • Kevin Levin Dec 2, 2019 @ 16:13

          You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I tend to think that men who were willing to give their lives to bring about an independent slave holding nation are anything but heroes.

          • John R Parrish Dec 2, 2019 @ 16:31

            Why would post civil war military bases be named after traitors then? Were the Daughters of the Confederacy involved in their naming? Of course not…

            • Kevin Levin Dec 2, 2019 @ 17:22

              Many of these bases were named during a period of reconciliation between North and South. The namings were not without controversy.

          • Terry Klima Dec 3, 2019 @ 5:47

            Prior to and during the course of the war, wasn’t the United States an independent, slave holding nation? In fact, the US Constitution recognized slavery in three specific amendments. President Lincoln endorsed a proposed Constitutional Amendment in his Inaugural Address of March 4, 1861 that would have preserved chattel slavery in perpetuity, stating he had no objection to the amendment being made “Express and Irrevocable”
            I find it disingenuous to castigate the Confederacy for slavery while ignoring the fortunes made in the North transporting slaves to the US under the most inhumane conditions, purchasing approximately 15% of the South’s cotton production, financing the expansion of slave plantations westward using the slaves themselves as collateral, insuring slave masters for economic loss associated with the lives of slaves held in bondage and willingly accepting improvements in infrastructure and benefits resulting from the tariff revenues generated on the importation of goods.

            Considering the moral high ground claimed regarding the nature of the war and the Union victory, one has to question how Jim Crow, White Supremacy, and a segregated US Military would be allowed to continue in the post war era. Ironically, it was President Harry S. Truman, a Southerner and a descendant of Confederate soldiers, who is responsible for desegregating the military in 1948.

            • Kevin Levin Dec 3, 2019 @ 6:20

              Even with the provisions protecting slavery in the Constitution, the United States wasn’t established specifically to preserve the institution. The Confederacy was established for just this purpose. All you have to do is read the secession documents from 1861 and the speeches of its leaders. I am in no way suggesting that Northerners are not implicated in the history of slavery in the 19th century. In fact, my students are studying this very topic right now.

            • Msb Dec 5, 2019 @ 9:02

              Alexander Stephens wants you to read his “Cornerstone” speech. It should show you the difference. If it doesn’t, you might read the secession statements of state governments. If those don’t work, consider that you might not be as open to facts and evidence as you might wish.

  • Charles Dec 1, 2019 @ 7:27

    I am not an expert on the Confederate monuments issue but i know a lot is said the monuments placed in the 60, was do the civil rights but little is said about the 100 anniversary. Do we know if anyone has looked in to if maybe just the opposite, maybe all the talk about erecting monuments in the late 50’s may of helped start the civil rights movement?

    • Kevin Levin Dec 1, 2019 @ 7:39

      Relatively few Confederate monuments were dedicated in the 1950s. The graph in the post reflects the rise in other forms of Confederate commemoration such as the naming of public schools in response to Brown v. Board of Ed. in 1954.

      • Charles Dec 1, 2019 @ 7:57

        I am not talking about dedicating monuments in the 50’s, I am looking at the years it would take to rase the money, approve a design, find a location. They would have to start in the late 50’s to have it ready in the early 60’s, for the 100 anniversary and looking at the graph also shows a lot of monuments built for the 50 anniversary. I would think if we look in the news papers from the late 50’s we see news about the monuments, they had to rase money some how.

  • Terry Klima Dec 1, 2019 @ 8:42

    Interesting hypothesis but a long way from being conclusively proven. To begin with, one needs to verify the accuracy and validity of the data-specifically the Southern Poverty Law Center graph. Wasn’t this the same organization that placed world-renowned Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson on its “”Extremist Watch List” and paid a London based organization a $3.375 million settlement for falsely naming the organization “extremist”?

    A few observations- according to the graph, Confederate monuments were being erected, presumably in the South, during Reconstruction.This data seems highly suspect based on what is known regarding reconstruction policies of the Federal government. The peak of Confederate monuments in the mid-1900’s coincides with the reunification period following the Spanish American War and the approach of the semicentennial of the war. While it is historically accurate that the NAACP was founded in 1909 as shown on the graph, any correlation to the erection of Confederate monuments is highly dubious as the organization was in its infancy and not widely known. Similarly, the construction of monuments in the 1960’s corresponds to the centennial of the war.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 1, 2019 @ 9:02

      The graph reflects current scholarship on the dedication of Confederate monuments. I am not utilizing anything else on the graph besides the statistics on when the majority of these monuments were dedicated and legalized segregation.

  • Jane Dec 1, 2019 @ 14:43

    I appreciate this dialogue and the opportunity to discuss and share, respectfully(!) the information presented. Volatile subject matter, to be sure.

  • London John Dec 1, 2019 @ 14:48

    Is it disputed in historical scholarship that the majority of Confedrate monuments were put up to celebrate and assert the restoration of white supremacy (“redemption”) after the abandonment of Reconsruction?

    • Kevin Levin Dec 1, 2019 @ 14:58

      Not among historians. Recent scholarship has made this pretty clear for anyone interested.

      • Terry Klima Dec 1, 2019 @ 16:15

        Perhaps you could provide some citations of historians and recent scholarship advancing this narrative for those of us who are interested.

        • Kevin Levin Dec 1, 2019 @ 16:25

          Sure. I would start with Karen Cox’s Dixie’s Daughters which was just released with a new edition with a new introduction. Caroline Janney’s Remembering the Civil War offers a thorough overview of monument dedications during the Jim Crow-era. I also recommend David B. Allison’s ed. Controversial Monuments and Memorials.

          That should get you started.

        • Scott Proctor Dec 3, 2019 @ 5:39

          The chart definatly helps to visualize the respective timelines of memorialization of Confederate soldiers in the former states of the Confederacy, and Oklahoma. However, the map only outlines disenfranchisement in the former Confederate states (and Oklahoma). (Why Oklahoma?)

          Q: Is there any indication from the SPLC on why they ignored the discrimination against black Americans in Northern and Western states in this study? (It wasn’t just in the South…)
          Q: Does the chart (not the map) include those markers and memorials outside of the former Confederacy (other than Oklahoma)?

          It is almost like they focus ALL the blame for racism in America on Southerners, and blame the memorials for that racism also. I’ve only seen one or two memorials that specifically had inscriptions stating racist ideals. They are gone now (thankfully). The rest are just memorials to remember the soldiers and their sacrifices… not racist ideas or ideals, in spite of the times they were commissioned in.

          Thank you, Ken.

  • Albert Henry Dec 1, 2019 @ 21:34

    How does the timing for erection of Union Civil War monuments compare to the Confederate timing on the SPLC graph?

    • Kevin Levin Dec 2, 2019 @ 2:01

      There is a wonderful new book by Thomas Brown, titled Civil War Monuments and the Memorialization of America (2019).

      • Jamie Bain Dec 4, 2019 @ 10:59

        There’s also “Ghosts of the Confederacy” by Gaines Foster. I read it back when it first came out (1988).

        • Kevin Levin Dec 4, 2019 @ 12:02

          Still worth reading.

  • John R Parrish Dec 2, 2019 @ 8:35

    So why were monuments of “traitors” allowed to be erected at government facilities?
    Or parks, military bases, schools, etc allowed to be named after them?
    Greatfully awaiting post and reply…
    God bless

    • Neil Hamilton Dec 3, 2019 @ 14:54

      Perhaps reconciliation was a motive after a bloody, four year civil war?

      And most soldiers will tell you that they hated where they were stationed, regardless if the post was named Ft. Bragg or Ft. Devens.

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