Virginia’s Confederate Monuments Can Finally Come Down

It finally happened. I don’t know if Virginia Governor Ralph Northam waited for April, which has traditionally been the month when states celebrate Confederate Heritage Month, to sign this bill, but I thank him.

Yesterday, the governor signed a bill that allows communities across the state to decide whether their Confederate monuments still reflect the collective values of its residents.

Protest in Front of the Robert E. Lee Monument in Charlottesville, Virginia

Northam understands the historical significance of this bill: “Racial discrimination is rooted in many of the choices we have made about who and what to honor, and in many of the laws that have historically governed this Commonwealth. These new laws make Virginia more equitable, just, and inclusive, and I am proud to sign them.”

Beginning on July 1, 2020 cities and towns will have the power to “remove, relocate, or contextualize the monuments in their communities.” They will also have the power to do nothing, if they so choose. That’s the point.

The few communities that have taken steps toward removal, including Charlottesville, Richmond, and Norfolk, have done so carefully by forming committees to study the issue and holding public forums where residents can voice their opinions.

The signing of this bill allows for a conversation that never took place when many of these statues and monuments were first dedicated across Virginia. The vast majority were dedicated during the era of racial disfranchisement across Virginia. As you can see in the map, the problem isn’t that Confederate statues don’t represent the collective values of towns and cities today. The problem is that 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 latest 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. Order your copy today.

134 comments… add one
  • ED Apr 21, 2020 @ 16:00

    Hello again. Check out” Rebel Forest the Nathan Bedford Forest story. There’s an elderly black man that said his grandfather fought with the 7th tn.calvary under general Forrest.That the first battle he fought in was at Shiloh. He also talks about at fort pillow he saw the union soldiers wave the white flag of surrender then open back up firing to try and kill Forrest.Mabey this is what made Forrest and his men so mad. There is also two different versions of what took place at Fort Pillow. And general Sherman’s investigation found no wrong doing. I also found another you tube documentary about black Confederates.In this a black man said his great grandfather was a colored union soldier and described on April 12 1864 fighting against black and white Confederate soldiers.That he was wounded and taken prisoner.He said that he didn’t know if he was shot by black or white soldiers.There is also other historians that said in Forests unit there was some 20 black soldiers and they were some of the fiercest and best shots in the unit. What is your thoughts on this? As it totally flies in the face of your book.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2020 @ 16:41

      The individual in question was a body servant and not a soldier. I have his pension file, which clearly states that it was issued to a former slave. I just published a book about this subject.

      • ED Apr 21, 2020 @ 17:13

        Okay, labeled as a soldier or not these are black men saying their family members told them about fighting and shooting in battles for the Confederacy.Are these men liers? And what about other historians talking about the black men in Forests unit being some of the fiercest and best shooting soldiers? These historians also talk about some years after the war Forrest was invited to speak at an African American organization meeting and he went and gave a speech.And is the black union soldier that said he fought against black Confederates in a battle lying?I do know that Forrest took 45 slaves with him at the start of the war. Only one deserted.About 18 months before the end of the war he freed all of the slaves and gave them papers that proved this. None of them left,they remained with him to the end of the war.Seems pretty loyal to a man the north demonized.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 22, 2020 @ 1:18

          And as historians our responsibility is to interpret the evidence carefully. Unfortunately, you consistently arrive at a conclusion that vindicates the Confederacy. That’s neither interesting or honest.

          • ED Apr 22, 2020 @ 2:30

            The same goes to you. You are just one historian. You consistently demonize the Confederacy and put the union up on a pedestal. To the people in the south this is not interesting or honest. When I bring up what other historians say,you ignore it because it doesn’t fit your agenda and propaganda. I know you probably won’t post this anyway,just like in the past when I’ve brought up arguments against your hateful agenda.what a shame!

            • Kevin Levin Apr 22, 2020 @ 2:53

              You consistently demonize the Confederacy and put the union up on a pedestal.

              If what you mean is that I am glad that the United States proved successful and that the Confederacy was defeated I am guilty as charged.

              • ED Apr 22, 2020 @ 3:25

                Okay I can respect that. I just wish you could respect that we have Confederate statues to honor our Confederate soldiers that gave their lives for their homes and families. Like I said before, there are Confederate soldier statues in every county around me in n.e.georgia. some were put up in recent years. I have several ancestors that fought for Confederacy. One grandfather captured at battle of Atlanta,one captured at deep bottoms,and one shot in the neck during Pickett’s charge. I’ve spent many years researching my family. None of my family owned slaves. They were just poor country farmers,like the majority of people in this area in those days.

                • Kevin Levin Apr 22, 2020 @ 3:34

                  You are free to honor and commemorate your ancestors as you see fit. The question is whether Confederate soldiers and the Confederacy should be honored in public spaces involving tax dollars. Each community is going to have to make that decision, which has been my position for quite some time.

  • Nathan Towne Apr 20, 2020 @ 17:09

    Well, there are really two different issues which you are addressing here. The first is disenfranchisement across the South following reconstruction, which while certainly real, is also actually sometimes overstated on the grounds that the Federal Courts took very real action over the ensuing several decades to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment.

    The second is simply to highlight the removal of the statues, which is, as always, a local issue. If a local resident, I would be supportive of removal.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 21, 2020 @ 1:11

      No, I think for many people these two issues are closely intertwined. I am not sure what point you are making re: voting and the Federal Courts.

      • Nathan Towne Apr 21, 2020 @ 11:27

        Hi Kevin,

        I am sorry. When I posted my comment last night, I had just gotten off of a long day with work and probably didn’t sufficiently express what I was saying.

        In essence, I agree with you that the two issues are intertwined, in part. I think that I was basically saying two things. First, I was just trying to point out that the answer as to whether to remove the statues isn’t necessarily answered by how they came to be erected. I would argue that it is more answered by what they represent. I recognize that you are arguing that they were only erected due to disenfranchisement, but that doesn’t itself illegitimate an action. If it did, much of what has been passed down to us in the United States would be illegitimate.

        The other point which I made was, again, probably not very well stated. There is no question that disenfranchisement was real and had a profound effect on the country. My only point was that it is not as if it was simply sanctioned carte blanche, or as if the country or the courts simply permitted to it happen. Furthermore, legal disenfranchisement, which is what you highlighted via the map, took off dramatically in the second half of the 1890’s and many statues and monuments had been erected before then, so, I am not sure how straight a line we can draw between the two. So, I think that that raises a few questions. Should we view disenfranchisement as the predominant driving force? Can that be explained via the role that extralegal disenfranchisement played? I am not entirely sure, to be honest.

        Nathan Towne

  • Msb Apr 16, 2020 @ 5:03

    If there’s an empty plinth in Charlottesville any time soon, how about putting a statue of Heather Heyer on it?

  • Mark Snell Apr 14, 2020 @ 10:48

    As a Pennsylvania resident, I have not been closely following this Virginia issue. I do wonder, however, why the Jackson statue at VMI–Northam’s alma mater–has been exempted from removal. (Perhaps this question already has been addressed on Civil War Memory.) Can anyone out there give me a rational/emotionally detached answer?

    • Kevin Levin Apr 14, 2020 @ 10:56

      Hi Mark,

      Great to hear from you. I have the very same question.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 14, 2020 @ 12:33

      Just learned that the language was added by Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, also a VMI grad.

      • Ed Thompson Apr 14, 2020 @ 13:53

        The language seems oddly specific

        • HankC Apr 17, 2020 @ 6:09

          it seems somewhat contradictory. the jackson statue is on state-owned property, not city-owned . presumably, the governor or legislature could order its removal (?)

          • Ed Thompson Apr 19, 2020 @ 15:38

            I was not able to find any articles specifically addressing Norment’s rationale for the specificity. There were a couple of articles that mentioned Norment was an alum of VMI (’68) and the Managing Editor of “The Bomb” , VMI’s yearbook, his senior year. Now, before we send up any Bat-Signals, it should be noted that Mr. Norment does not appear in any of the pictures, and did not take any of the pictures in the yearbook. A spokesman from VMI has confirmed the authenticity of the photos.

            What does any of this prove. Not much. Norment was there, so were a lot of other people. But the question still remains, why the specificity? Not mention of institutions located in other cities, just the ones in Lexington. We may have to file this under “Things that Make You Go Hmmmmm”

  • Andersonh1 Apr 14, 2020 @ 4:55

    I did look at the map, but it’s only one piece of the historical record. That information should be taken into account, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Thank you for the book recommendation.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 14, 2020 @ 5:33

      Look at it again and then try to find monuments and memorials in those specific towns, cities, counties that reflect the majority. Hint: You won’t find any during the Jim Crow era. Now ask yourself why.

  • Andersonh1 Apr 14, 2020 @ 4:06

    I have been collecting and reading source documents from the dedication of many Confederate monuments, the laying of the cornerstone of a Confederate monument, the history of the memorial associations that raised the funds and had them commissioned (often a Ladies’ Memorial Association), constitutions of the memorial associations, etc. So far (and I intend to keep collecting and keep reading, so I’ll see if this changes), there is very little mention of race and no noting of racial motivations at all in the installation of these monuments. They are by and large exactly what they appear to be, mass gravestones for the men who went off to war and never returned. The women who commissioned them often started with caring for a cemetery for the Confederate dead and recovering remains to re-inter them at home before moving on to a general monument. In other cases, a memorial was set up to a specific individual like Robert E. Lee or Nathan Bedford Forrest, and the motivation was the esteem in which that individual was held by the community at that time. I was struck by the fact that for the PGT Beauregard equestrian monument in New Orleans, a number of the men who began the work to make that statue a reality did not live to see the work completed, and I wonder how often that was the case for other memorials. Again, I have not found any racial motivations set down on paper.

    It’s difficult for me to accept the current interpretation of these monuments as something “racist” based on what I’ve been reading. The vast majority are gravestones that gave their local community some closure. We might not agree with the cause the men fought for, but no decent human being should object to memorializing the dead.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 14, 2020 @ 4:26

      I highly recommend Adam Domby’s new book, The False Cause which does a great job of exploring North Carolina’s Confederate statuary and its connection to Jim Crow segregation and the return of white supremacy in the 1890s. You obviously didn’t spend much time looking at the map. Many Confederate statues were put during the height of legalized segregation in places where the majority of the population was black. As a result they were not able to take part in public discussions about how their collective past would be commemorated. Race and white supremacy were at the center of the Confederate monument landscape.

    • HankC Apr 14, 2020 @ 7:21

      a more historically accurate monument plaque would be along the lines of honoring ‘ordinary citizens lead to destruction by the rich and powerful’.

  • Lee Apr 13, 2020 @ 17:33

    Hurrah for Northam! One day wearing black face and making fun of African Americans,the next day taking down Confederate statues for their vote. Gotta love this USA the union fought for!

    • Kevin Levin Apr 14, 2020 @ 1:10

      I am sure it would be much easier for you to accept if Northam remained unrepentant and a vocal racist.

  • Ed Thompson Apr 13, 2020 @ 15:34

    Holy Mary Chesnut, Kevin! There’s no ‘half-measures’ when Kevin Levin kicks over a beehive…

    I sort of expected this response, but I think you’ve got the whole SOCV Knee-Jerk Response Team mobilized and triggered. Stay sharp, keep fit, make good decisions. I expected the “erasing history” nonsense. As if.
    Since we’re all about keeping things as they used to be, maybe we could bring back the old literacy tests. Judging by some of the comments above, maybe a spelling test or a grammar quiz might be more fitting.

    I had no idea that Reverend Martin Luther King was a terrorist. Then again the honor of fighting for a state’s right to hold a group of people in bondage, force them to work and then refuse to allow them to share in the profits of their labor. Dr. King must not have been a very good one if nobody knew he was a terrorist, Maybe that’s what caused him to go into the ministry instead of pursuing a life of terror. What a crock of (nonsense).

    Washington, Jefferson, Madison owned slaves. Sherman, Lincoln, et. al. didn’t believe in racial equality. A lot of people didn’t. Not that that makes any of it right, but it does place it i context for its time. Society has evolved. Doctors used to use leeches to treat a fever. They don’t anymore. As we’ve become more educated, fewer and fewer people still hold such beliefs. Tours at Montpelier, Monticello, and Mount Vernon now all acknowledge and address slave ownership. All of those places are operated by trusts and foundations, Mount Vernon is not a public park. According to their website, Mount Vernon does not accept federal funding. It is owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association for the Union. Monticello is owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. So we won’t need to tear down Mount Vernon, or Monticello. They’re safe. Whew!

    Why do we call them traitors? Maybe it’s because that’s what they DID. Merriam webster’s Dictionary defines treason as: “the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family” We could dither for days over the oath that Lee, Joe Johnston, Jubal Early, Armistead, and others swore as US Army officers. They reneged on that oath and then actively took part in overt acts to overthrow the duly elected government. At least successful traitors like Washington and Jefferson could legitimately say they had not rebelled against an elected government. But if you lose, it is treason. Make no mistake about that. Washington didn’t lose.

    As for successful treason, I suppose Queen Elizabeth II could erect a monument to Benedict Arnold if she wanted to. She is, after all, the Queen. Gen. Arnold did act to protect and serve The Crown. But then there is that pesky detail about him being a traitor to The Crown first. That was the more noble incidence of treason in Benny’s case. Maybe we could find a way to honor that sacrifice. I look forward to attending the opening of Benedict Arnold Middle School with many of the Neo-Confederates to honor Benny’s memory and properly recognize Gen Arnold’s sacrifice/service.

    • Jimmy Dick Apr 13, 2020 @ 19:23

      “I look forward to attending the opening of Benedict Arnold Middle School with many of the Neo-Confederates to honor Benny’s memory and properly recognize Gen Arnold’s sacrifice/service.”

      Will that be right after they honor the memory of Robert Smalls or the many thousands of USCT soldiers by erecting and maintaining monuments for them while also stating on those monuments that slavery was the cause of the Civil War or before?

      • washingtonsenators01 Apr 14, 2020 @ 5:13

        I was being facetious, the point being that if we’re going to memorialize folks who committed treason – but for a really good reason – we ought to start with Benedict Arnold. He committed treason twice. Memorials in public spaces ought to be for people who fought for causes that reflect the examples we want to uphold: Compassion, Freedom, Service to Others, Selflessness, medical breakthroughs, that sort of thing. Robert Smalls is someone I’d want my children and grandchildren to know about and hopefully emulate. He’s deserving of a statue/memorial. R.E. Lee? Not so much…

        Upon further research it does seem as if Captain Smalls has a well-deserved memorial at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort, SC. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g54135-d13555814-Reviews-Robert_Smalls_Monument-Beaufort_South_Carolina.html.

        I also found a list of monuments and memorials to USCT across the United States. I don’t think it’s a comprehensive list, but it’s a good start at least.
        https://jubiloemancipationcentury.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/monuments-to-the-united-states-colored-troops-usct-the-list/

        • CliosFanBoy Apr 14, 2020 @ 6:56

          Thank you for that link. And it’s a wonderful blog. I love the photo of the integrated GAR post. It’s such a contrast with the “Happy Slave” actors that did their song and dance for the Confederate vets’ reunions.

        • Jimmy Dick Apr 14, 2020 @ 11:05

          I’m with you on it, don’t worry. I was being equally snarky right along with you about the lost causers and their denial of historical reality. Thanks for the links. Those are quite nice.

  • Matt McKeon Apr 13, 2020 @ 11:44

    All this law means is that the local community is allowed to decide what is in its own public spaces. Those decisions are made with hearings and votes by the city or town council, answerable to the voters. Some communities will make no changes. Some will post signs. Some will move monuments and some will remove them all together. The rule of law and government process will be followed. It’s boring and nobody gets everything they want. Welcome to democracy.

  • Eric A. Jacobson Apr 13, 2020 @ 7:52

    Wow. I must say wading through some of the comments is both entertaining and very telling. I am so thoroughly sick of hearing about Washington and Jefferson, etc are next and Lincoln and Sherman are bad and racist, too, etc. It is like listening to children. Last time I check no monuments to any of the Founders have been removed and for all the screeching very few Confederate monuments have been removed.

    Anyway, I chuckle at those who espouse local and State government as the best forms of government suddenly twist into knots when those governments are given the power to decide their futures by the will of the people. But then again some of these folks are just like those in the 1850s who did not like what Northern states were doing when it came to the Fugitive slave law and so they appealed to the Federal government to demand those Northern states do exactly what Southern states demanded. So then, like now, they do not approve of states rights, but they only support the state when it supports their position.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 13, 2020 @ 8:06

      It’s been a while since I had this many neo-Confederates converge on my blog at the same time. Reminds of the good ole’ days. 🙂

      • Ken Noe Apr 14, 2020 @ 13:18

        Obviously the Bat Signal went up somewhere.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 14, 2020 @ 15:27

          Still can’t pinpoint it. It’s like the good ole’ days, Ken.

        • CliosFanBoy Apr 14, 2020 @ 16:07

          In this case, the Bat-Poop Crazy Signal!!!

  • Jimmy Dick Apr 13, 2020 @ 7:42

    It’s about time. Local communities should have the power to remove monuments they don’t want in their public spaces. For all the whining by those who don’t know history about removing it, it is plain that they have a fictional version of the past they want to maintain. I find it ironic that those who so often hate big government reject local government having the power to make decisions they don’t like. It is hilarious that these people who say the South seceded over being told what to do by an oppressive government are whining about the government not oppressing the people of a local municipality when the local government sought to change things.

  • Shoshana Bee Apr 12, 2020 @ 20:05

    i have always found the idea of “you are destroying history if you remove the monuments” amusing. Having lived in Europe, by this reasoning, I find it next to miraculous that anyone knows anything about history over there. After all, most of Europe does not have the luxury to preserve nearly the battlefield acreage that we do, nor is there much Roman architecture present outside of Italy. Yet, the Europeans are well-versed in their history (and ours, too) with or without stone idols dotting the landscape. Aside from all that, Northam is giving the local folks a chance to decide for themselves, rather than calling for whole scale removal of the monuments. Freedom to choose. It sounds like folks prefer a dictatorship that decrees which idols are placed where…as long is it agrees with their ideology.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 13, 2020 @ 1:22

      It’s certainly a bit of twisted logic at work here. A few communities will choose to remove their Confederate monuments, but I suspect that most will remain for the near future.

  • James Banes Apr 12, 2020 @ 16:00

    So when are the racist black memorials going to be taken down? This PC racism goes both ways.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 16:40

      You are free to call for the removal of any monument/memorial you choose. Good luck to you.

  • Donald Hahn Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:43

    I think we should be taking down black statues and flags especially where the known terrorist MLK is involved instead.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 16:41

      You are free to call for their removal. The only question is whether you can muster sufficient support to make it happen. I have my doubts.

    • Andy Hall Apr 13, 2020 @ 6:01

      You remind me of the guy who sued to protect a Confederate monument because he was offended by a monument to a man he called “Martin Luther Coon.”

    • Jimmy Dick Apr 13, 2020 @ 7:30

      I just love how you said MLK, a man who advocated the use of non-violent means to resist inequality, oppression, and tyranny was a terrorist. I think that really reflects your inability to comprehend reality and shows your racism more than anything.

  • Charles Pratt Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:23

    We are supposed to honor the soldiers who fought and died for their country,but if you were a confederate soldier that doesn’t matter so just take all civil war monument down.just remember what Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg PA , shame on you people that want the monument down

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 16:43

      Last time I checked we lived in the United States of America and not the Confederate States of America.

  • Pam Fitzgerald Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:18

    This is Bull****… History is everywhere. Getting rid of monuments will not get rid of the civil war. I can’t wait to see the Washington monument to be taken down. He owned slaves. The confederate flag and the monuments have been here for over 100 years and now it is racist. You people are idiots.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:21

      Perhaps you weren’t listening carefully enough. I haven’t heard of any serious calls to remove the Washington Monument and given that it is on federal property in D.C. I don’t think you have much to worry about.

  • Kathu Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:02

    This is totally idiotic. What is wrong with you people. Do you think you can change history by removing monuments. It happened deal with it. And consider the monuments standing would remind everyone of what we DO NOT WANT TO EVER HAPPEN AGAIN. Our young people need to see and learn it ALL not your sugar coated watered down version.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:08

      These monuments/memorials are not history lessons. This is a misinterpretation of their purpose. The monuments were dedicated to reflect the values of the people responsible for them. A monument to Robert E. Lee is more about the intentions of the individuals/organizations who chose to dedicate than it is about the historical Lee. History is not magically erased because a monument has been removed. If that were the case than Germans wouldn’t be able to study the history of the Nazis because there are no monuments and memorials. We know lots of things about the past without there being monuments in public spaces to remind us.

      They are called history books.

  • Timothy Hinkle Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:45

    In my county the monument at the courthouse is a Confederate soldier giving bugle call. The only words on the statue is ” in honor of our dead “.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:50

      Now try to imagine what message a Confederate soldier on courthouse grounds would have sent to African Americans? Do you think they felt welcome in such an important public place?

      • Timothy Hinkle Apr 12, 2020 @ 14:16

        This monument is next to a ww1 monument which is next to a ww2 monument which is next to a Korean and vietnam war monument that is dedicated to our dead in those wars. We’re not dedicating to politics we’re dedicating to the lives that were lost whether we agreed with the politics or not

        • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 14:20

          You are certainly entitled to your opinion. Confederate monuments were by definition about politics since the vast majority were dedicated during the Jim Crow era when African Americans were disfranchised.

      • ED Apr 12, 2020 @ 14:17

        There was a lot more gray area in the civil war than most would like to admit.In civil war soldier letters the Confederates refered to black people as(darkies). The Union soldiers called them (nagers) Oh but you would never see that in today’s history books about the glorious righteous union.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 14:18

          You are correct. Opinions of African Americans occupied a wide spectrum. Historians have written extensively about this over the years.

          • ED Apr 12, 2020 @ 14:39

            Ok so let’s just call it what it is.Some of the southern government officials wanted to extend slavery into westward territory.Most of the north did not.But most had no problem with slavery where it was already at.when the war broke out Lincoln had no intention on freeing the slaves in the South.He only did so have way through the war to hurt the south.And the vast majority of Confederate soldiers where fighting for their homes,state, family not to keep slaves because most had none.And the Union shoulders fought for their state homes, family and preserve union,not to free the slaves.The common soldier on both sides was not killing one another for slaves in their minds.

            • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 14:44

              I think it is difficult to try to encapsulate the entire war into a few sentences. You make a lot of assumptions here and it would take me a long time to unpack it. Your characterization of Union and Confederate soldiers is much too simplistic.

              Lincoln certainly did not enter the war with the goal of freeing slaves. He understood the politics, but by 1863 it became a military necessity. The service of black soldiers helped to shift how many white soldiers viewed them as well as those back home. Lincoln’s own racial outlook evolved as a result. By the end of the war he was seriously thinking about a limited suffrage for African Americans. That is a dramatic shift from his views in the 1850s and embrace of colonization.

            • kevin brown Apr 13, 2020 @ 6:33

              People fight for many reasons, but you seem to be contending that most Confederate soldiers were either closet abolitionists or, at the very least, indifferent to the issue of slavery and that simply is not historically supported.

              The entire culture of the South was based on white supremacy and African-American slavery. 31% of Confederate families owned slaves and a great many others aspired to slave ownership.

              Even for those who did not own or aspired to own slaves, they lived in a caste society where, by the very nature of their white skin, they enjoyed social superiority to 40% of the population.

              The vast majority of white people in the eleven Confederate states supported the institution of slavery and white supremacy. It was the basis for their entire culture and they saw it as normal and proper.

              • London John Apr 20, 2020 @ 3:06

                This post by kevin brown sums up succintly a self-evident truth; I don’t understand why it is still even questioned. Not only was white supremacy the essence of the Confederate cause for non-slaveowners, it was also the essence of the anti-war movement in Union states. The most dramatic example of this is of course the New York Draft Riots of 1863, which were also race riots.
                So we might expect that enthusiasm for the Confederate cause would be least, and pro-Union sentiment strongest, in parts of the Confederate states where there were few or no Blacks for Whites to be superior to. Is this the case? I believe the Appalachians tended to be pro-Union (yes there were “Black Hillbillies” but not many), but does the origin of white Union volunteers from Confederate states generally bear this out?

            • Jimmy Dick Apr 13, 2020 @ 7:34

              Was Lincoln supposed to ignore the treason committed by Confederates when they attacked Ft. Sumter? Note that he didn’t call up troops until after that attack by the traitors. It would be nice if you got the history correct to begin with instead of trying to ignore the facts.

  • Crowley Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:15

    people walk by the monuments every day and think nothing of them just leave them alone why waste taxpayers money to remove monuments people don’t even think about

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:51

      Speak for yourself.

      And if that is true than there should be no problem with removing them.

  • Michael Scott Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:15

    What will you people say and do if R.E.Lee is in Heaven? Will God let you in if you people have hate in your heart? He said you are to love your enemies, which you people do NOT! What about your fault’s as a human; you people point out the sawdust in some people’s eyes but refuse to acknowledge the log’s in your eyes. You people are two faced and your words of hate only separate people. You people are Satan’s advocate.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:52

      Spoken like a true Christian. Thanks, Michael. Happy Easter.

      • Ed Thompson Apr 13, 2020 @ 15:44

        Please don’t lump me in with Michael. As a southern, white male, I often find myself lumped in with “less-tolerant” individuals based on that. As a Christian, I also find myself “lumped in” with those that use the Bible as a rhetorical buffet. There’s no mean like ‘Church Mean’.

        As for Michael, if R.E. Lee is in heaven, that’s God’s decision, not mine. I fully acknowledge that I have my flaws, you seem to have some ‘intense dislike’ in your own heart. You may want to take your own advice. It might be a good time to review Matthew 22: 36-40.

  • Ian Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:42

    Wonder how many communities will spend thousands upon thousands of tax dollars to remove a statue that has stood for over 100 years. I imagine that there are much more important uses if the money. Schools, emergency services, health issues …

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:55

      I honestly don’t know. The bill that the governor signed doesn’t force communities to remove Confederate statues. It simply gives them control over how the past is represented in local public spaces.

      • ED Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:32

        Why would us southerners be proud the Confederacy was defeated? Hundreds of thousands of southern boys and men died for southern independence,that they constitutionally had the right to.Thats why we honor those statues.And that’s why around here in Georgia cemeteries are covered in little Confederate flags every year.And about 10 years ago a brand new Confederate soldier statue was erected on the square in town.Not every state is turned into Virginia thank God.And congratulations to Mississippi for making April Confederate month.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 16:42

          And here I thought we could agree that the creation of a new slaveholding republic in the middle of the nineteenth century would be a bad thing for everyone, especially the 4 million human beings who would have remained enslaved.

        • CliosFanBoy Apr 13, 2020 @ 4:43

          Why aren’t you proud of your Union troops or the USCTs from your state? Where are THEIR monuments???

          • Kevin Levin Apr 13, 2020 @ 5:05

            Exactly.

          • Lee Apr 13, 2020 @ 12:16

            Probably because while there was Georgians that fought for the union, they were minimal. For the same reason that States like Iowa,New York, Pennsylvania,etc.all had men that fought for the south,they were also minimal.Those states have no Confederate statues,why would we have Yankee ones.

            • Kevin Levin Apr 13, 2020 @ 12:21

              You apparently have never studied northwest Georgia. There were roughly 400 Georgians who enlisted in Union regiments, but you also ignore former slaves who enlisted in the USCTs. Unionism was much stronger in other parts of the Confederacy. It is ridiculous to compare that with the North.

              • Lee Apr 13, 2020 @ 13:07

                400 for union? 100,000 for Confederacy. Like I said minimal!

                • Kevin Levin Apr 13, 2020 @ 13:19

                  Sure. Other states saw far more black and white men join Union regiments.

              • Lee Apr 13, 2020 @ 13:21

                A history teacher in college said as many as 10,000 southern Illinois men crossed the line and joined the confederacy.check out the 15th Tennessee had a whole company of Illinois men.we might need to try to get a Confederate statue put up in Illinois.

                • Kevin Levin Apr 13, 2020 @ 14:08

                  Up until a few years ago there was a Confederate statue in Boston Harbor, placed there by the UDC in 1963. The history of Civil War monuments is quite complex and tells us much more about the individuals/organizations responsible for their dedication than anything to do with the history they purportedly represent.

  • Donald harris Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:19

    There are groups here in Memphis meeting to close down Shiloh and fort pillow this will be the next thing to happen after the monuments have been taken down

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:23

      Really, Donald. Shiloh is federal property. I think it’s safe for now. You can rest easy. I believe Fort Pillow is a state park. Same.

    • Ken Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:26

      R you serious they want to shut down Shiloh pretty soon there will be no. Ore history to visit

      • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:28

        With all due respect, spelling should be more of a concern for some of you than the prospects of a battlefield located on federal property.

        • ED Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:53

          And what about the travisty that happens in Georgia when Sherman’s union troops were being followed by about 200 slaves.the union troops were not happy about this.upon the soldiers reaching the other side of a river on a ferry one of the Union officers (a known racist)cut the ferry rope and hundreds of slaves drowned.Most of the north could have cared less about slavery.

          • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:54

            That incident has been well documented. The only thing you left out was that Confederate cavalry was closing in in the opposite direction.

            • ED Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:00

              You are correct.I did leave that out.I also left out that the Union general Davis was also known as an unbashed supporter of slavery.This is also well documented.The refugee slaves were bothering him and getting in his way

              • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:04

                There were a number of Union generals who supported the institution of slavery, especially from Border States. Racial attitudes were incredibly complex. Again, we agree on this. I am not sure what the point of this discussion is. It doesn’t change the fact that the Confederate government was hoping to create an independent slaveholding republic. Regardless of the level of racism in the North or the fact that the United States didn’t start out wanting to destroy slavery, we should all be thankful that the Confederacy was defeated.

        • Bishop Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:48

          I agree with them coming down..They fought to preserve slavery which is a disgrace in itself.I pay taxes and like to take my children to the park and i wouldn’t want my tax dollars to go to a place in the name of and in front of a statue of a man who fought to have my ancestors inslaved..The world is different, our country is different now..They can put them in the museum of give them to people to keep at their houses or whatever.We represent a country all inclusive.The stories need to be set straight about blacks fighting for the south..They were body guards for these people and their lives had no value to them.Its all sad but we can correct it Have pride in your family,you should but i dont want to be reminded that your ancestors fought to enslave my people.Why would you want to celebrate someone who fought to enslave people..It wasn’t about states rights..It was about states rights to have slaves and Lincoln and Sherman probably were racist but they ended slavery as a result of winning the war and for that i am thankful.I love my fellow brothers black,white and all but this is about time and needs to be done and be done now..Thanks governor on a job well done..Peace to you all..

    • Matt McKeon Apr 13, 2020 @ 11:37

      This is obviously false. Shiloh is a national park, property of the federal government, not the local community. Fort Pillow is owned and maintained by the state. “There are groups here” Name three.

  • Kenneth Keyes Apr 12, 2020 @ 11:58

    Why all of a sudden why must a piece of America’s history come down I live in the north and say let it be my family fought for the north and all this happened 150 yrs ago HISTORY ! Next it will be the battle fields I say your choice virginia

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:02

      There is nothing unusual about the removal of monuments and memorials.

      • Ken Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:19

        How about taking the faces of our presidents off mt Rushmore is that next?

        • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:22

          Hi Ken,

          You are free to call for the removal of Mt. Rushmore. You just need to organize sufficient support to make it happen. Best of luck to you.

      • ED Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:35

        The cold hard fact is 99 percent of the people in America in the 1800s were racist,North and south.Ive read several letters written by union soldiers about fighting to preserve the Union not for freeing slaves . And several letters from union soldiers about how vile and inferior the black race was.General Sherman was known for many comments like this.in Sam Watkins book(a Confederate soldiers) he seems to have more affection for black people than the Yankees did.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:41

          ED,

          By our standards the vast majority of white Americans were racist. But here’s the thing, one side fought a war to preserve the Union and the other attempted to destroy it and establish a slaveholding republic. We are probably not going to agree on that so let’s not try. Sam Watkins is one postwar story out of thousands. Try looking at what Confederates wrote about having to fight black Union soldiers at the Crater in July 1864.

          • Ken Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:57

            We might as well take down general Sherman’s head stone with him on his horse and leave him a white cross listen I don’t or think slavery was rite it was wrong but in the 1800s it was a way of life foe plantation owners like I said what we have now leave it alone let it be history is history

            • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:52

              You are certainly free to try. Best of luck.

  • r southwood michael Apr 12, 2020 @ 11:58

    Leave the Confederate monuments alone and honor their memories
    Long live gen Robert e lee

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:03

      I think that’s the point. Communities across the country no longer believe that these men and the cause for which they fought should be honored. Of course, you are free to continue to do so.

  • W. Layer Apr 12, 2020 @ 11:58

    What a travesty, what an insult to history. Should Mt. Vernon be torn down next because Washington owned slaves. To the moronic progressives the answer is “Yes” so offend are they by the existence of this country. My ancestors wore Union blue, why wasn’t I consulted, after all my forebears fought against the Confederacy? If the men who fought for the union could accept these monuments and recognize the courage of their enemies there is something mentally wrong with those in the 21st Century who would destroy them. Lincoln called for the nation to bind up its wounds, “with charity for all and malice toward none,” fools like Gov Northam and his “progressive” rabble would rip the wounds open and in doing so show their vile contempt for Lincoln.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:05

      Thanks for the comment, but you clearly need to do some reading. You said:

      If the men who fought for the union could accept these monuments and recognize the courage of their enemies there is something mentally wrong with those in the 21st Century who would destroy them.

      Many Union veterans vehemently disapproved of the steps Confederate veterans and white southerners generally took to celebrate the cause and its leaders with memorials and statues. Perhaps you are the one dishonoring the memory of your own ancestor.

  • ED Apr 12, 2020 @ 10:45

    Several of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy and not one of them had slaves.are they going to take down statues of general Sherman and Lincoln for the racist things they said.sherman was a known racist.Lincoln had said if he could win the war without freeing a single slave he would.when Lincoln freed the slaves in 1863 thousands of union shoulders deserted,said they wouldn’t fight their white brothers in the south over slaves.They fought to preserve the union.Eighty percent of the people in the south didn’t own slaves,yet they fought for their homeland.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 10:47

      Confederate soldiers fought the war for many reasons. All of them served in armies that functioned as the military arm of a government that was committed to establishing an independent slaveholding republic. As to the rest of your comment, you are free to call for the removal of any monument or memorial in this country. The only question is whether you can gain sufficient support to make it happen. Best of luck to you.

      • ED Apr 12, 2020 @ 11:45

        by the way do you know the name of the black man on the cover of your book? They have that same photo at chickamauga battle field in Georgia.They have his name and that he fought at the battle for the Confederacy,and returned to Mississippi after the war

        • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 11:48

          His name is Silas Chandler and I discuss him in detail throughout the book. He was a body servant or what I call in the book a camp slave to Andrew Chandler. Silas did indeed return to Mississippi as a free man to be reunited with his family. Silas was not a soldier in the Confederate army. If you ask a park ranger at Chickamauga they will tell you that their description needs to be revised.

          • ED Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:00

            Why is it that some people call Confederate soldiers traitors and treasonous for wanting southern independence? yet during the American revolution the Americans fought England for independence.and some of those Americans owned slaves because it was legal in the American colonies.And all of the slave ships was flying the stars and stripes not the Confederate flag.Hipocrites only pick and choose what fits their narotive.GOD BLESS THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS

            • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:07

              Ed,

              I think for many Americans the problem is that the extension of slavery came with that southern independence. Yes, the United States was complicit in the slave trade but the international slave trade was abolished in 1808. The increase in the slave population in the nineteenth century took place within the boundaries of the United States. A little history goes a long way.

    • Andy Hall Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:51

      are they going to take down statues of general Sherman and Lincoln for the racist things they said.sherman was a known racist.

      You have an absolute right to raise your voice as a citizen in the communities where statues of Sherman and Lincoln exist, to urge their removal, just as citizens have in Richmond, Charlottesville, and New Orleans. Those are decisions for each community to make. As Kevin says, “that’s the point.”

      • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 13:54

        Hey Andy, it’s like the good old days on the blog today. The only thing missing is a comment from Connie Chastain 🙂

    • London John Apr 13, 2020 @ 6:51

      “Lincoln had said if he could win the war without freeing a single slave he would.” Do historians assume that Lincoln always told the truth about his motives? It looks to a layman as tho’ everything Lincoln said in public was designed to advance the cause, not to record his real thoughts. Look at what he did, not at what he said. Having freed the slaves that he had the power to free, he was sure of the abolitionists. So he might as well say a few words to try to keep the Constitutional Unionists on board. With most politicians it’s the other way round as to who gets the words and who gets the deeds, IMO.

  • Richard Hoover Apr 12, 2020 @ 10:35

    Shame for discounting the sacrifices made by thousands upon thousands of southern dead and wounded,
    many of whom, quite understandably, went into action after Lincoln’s call for troops to invade the Confederacy. And that decision of Lincoln’s was made for a host of economic reasons, none of which touched upon the existence of slavery (see his First Inaugural address). Northam’s signing of this bill disrespects the dead, disfigures history and divides our citizenry as though half of our forbears– those who fought for the Confederacy– were not Americans. Erect all the monuments desired to commemorate the lives of northern dead, slaves and what they sacrificed, you will not find a single opponent among the objective, tolerant and patriotic. You will find those who would tear down Confederate monuments to be exactly the opposite.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 10:40

      The question for communities across the country is whether these statues represent the collective values of their residents. Turns out that in some places elected officials have decided that they don’t, but as the map shows in the blog post, they never did.

    • Carlton E Parker Apr 12, 2020 @ 16:18

      The South initiated the war by attacking Fort Sumter and as far as the Confederate statues and flags are concern I see it as being disrespectful to the brave men who fought and died under the Stars and stripes to free people in bondage and keep our country United I’m African American born in the U.S.A. The son of a United States naval veteran during the Korean war that was fought under the same flag The Stars and stripes GOD BLESS the U.S.A.🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

      • Lee Apr 13, 2020 @ 9:02

        That’s just it! The vast majority of Union soldiers wasn’t fighting to free people from bondage. They could have cared less about the slaves.Thats why in the 1850s leading up to the war, Illinois had the (black code) laws.This prohibited free blacks from moving in to the state.This law remained to well after the war . They refered to it as the(negro problem) like locusts on the land.so don’t give me this bull about the righteous union.They didn’t want to even be around them!

        • Kevin Levin Apr 13, 2020 @ 9:10

          That is a rather oversimplified statement regarding what Union soldiers said they were fighting for. Historians have written extensively about this over the years. It is true that for the vast majority it was the preservation of the Union that rallied them in 1861. It’s also true that for many their views evolved as they marched deeper into the South. By 1865 many came to believe that abolishing slavery and punishing the slaveholding class would help solidify the Union, but that did not mean that they believed in racial equality.

  • paineite Apr 12, 2020 @ 5:31

    Monuments to treason and disloyalty need to all come down, but this is a step in the right direction. Thanks for the notice.

    • RHEC Cornbread Apr 12, 2020 @ 14:57

      But celebrates the 4th of July😆😆😆 It’s legal to succeed so they didn’t commit treason.

      • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 15:00

        I think before anyone takes you seriously you should use the correct wording. The word you want is secede or secession and not succession. Got it, boss?

        • London John Apr 13, 2020 @ 0:02

          You sure about that, Kevin? Maybe Mr Cornbread was making the point that if it succeeds, it’s not called treason. As Sir John Harington pointed out in his well-known couplet.

  • Michael Apr 12, 2020 @ 4:18

    What do you believe is the best method to incorporate a memory of Confederate veterans? I, like you, believe these monuments do not reflect community values; but also recognize the death and devastation suffered by Confederate veterans. Their descendants have just as much of a right to recognize their sacrifice. How do we do that? They fought to maintain chattel slavery, but bled and died on battlefields far from their home. How do we reconcile that? It’s not as simple as marginalizing their descendant’s opinions about the topic. Just would like to hear your thoughts.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 4:23

      Americans have the right to commemorate and remember history in the privacy of their own homes and through private organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy. No one has taken that right away. We are talking about public spaces that are supported by tax dollars.

      • washingtonsenators01 Apr 12, 2020 @ 5:52

        Totally nailed it, Mr. Levin!

        • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 5:58

          I do my best. 🙂

      • Patrick Connelly Apr 12, 2020 @ 10:17

        Ignorant people pass ignorant laws. If you don’t know history then you try to cover it up. Like this guy is doing. More will go up and nothing will be done about it. Let the tax payers pay to have them taken down. The ones going up can’t be touched by foolish people👍
        April will be forever Confederate heritage month🙏

        • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 10:27

          April will be forever Confederate heritage month🙏

          It will live forever in your fantasies. Enjoy.

          • Tom Prendergast Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:29

            You are as ignorant as the Stalinist and no different than those of ISIS who destroyed the history of Iraq. Fear of an inanimate object is the consummate form of cowardice!

            • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 12:31

              What about Europeans in former communist countries who pulled down statues/monuments to Stalin and communism? Were they “as ignorant as the Stalinist”? What about Americans who pulled down a statue of Sadaam Hussein in Baghdad or Americans who pulled down a statue of King George on the eve of the American Revolution? I could go on.

              • Roman Tarasenko Apr 12, 2020 @ 14:53

                I am russian and there was no Stalin monuments ever in our country! So as it was said before by Tom Prendergast – If you don’t know history then you try to cover it up. And I hope that april will be forever Confederate heritage month indeed.

                • Kevin Levin Apr 12, 2020 @ 14:57

                  I never referenced Russian. I referenced former Soviet satellite nations. That’s beside the point.

                  And I hope that april will be forever Confederate heritage month indeed.

                  Keep it in your heart because other states will likely soon follow Virginia.

        • Allen Edelstein Apr 12, 2020 @ 11:34

          What is the heritage of enslavement?

      • kevin Apr 13, 2020 @ 6:29

        Well said, Kevin!

    • Bob Apr 12, 2020 @ 7:58

      Some are also moving the statues to cemeteries for this very reason. Orlando did this early on on the discussions after the terrorist attack and massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

    • Msb Apr 16, 2020 @ 4:49

      Isn’t that what cemeteries and battlefield monuments are for?

  • Chris Barry Apr 12, 2020 @ 3:56

    Bravo! Thanks for sharing this news.

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