How To Remove a Confederate Monument

Supervisors in Albemarle County, Virginia have announced that the Confederate statue that has stood in front of the old courthouse since 1909 will be removed on September 12. As a former resident of Charlottesville I know this statue well. For eleven years I brought students and the general public to this site to help them better understand Civil War memory and the Jim Crow era in Charlottesville and beyond.

While I worry that this announcement may attract white nationalists and other troublemakers, I applaud the county for inviting the public to take part from a safe distance. It is important that the community do so.

As I have pointed out numerous time many of the Confederate statues dedicated during the Jim Crow era took place in counties where more than half the population was Black. While large crowds marked the dedication of these monuments they never really represented the collective history and values of the entire community.

Source: America: A Concise History (Circles denoting monuments/memorials added by Dito Morales)

The residents of Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville should embrace this moment as an opportunity to reclaim this public space and make it clear that the statue does not represent their collective values.

This is also a wonderful example of why I prefer that monuments be removed/relocated by city officials as opposed to protesters. The former act on behalf of the entire community while the latter speak only for themselves. More importantly, removal by elected officials, following a formal process of public hearings and committee work, has a much better chance of transitioning into the question of how the site might be transformed.

The removal of this statue will at some point in the near future be followed by the removal of the Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee statues, which are located in the same neighborhood. All three will forever be connected to the White Nationalist rally that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer in August 2017.

Charlottesville has been through a lot over the past few years. Here’s hoping that the removal of this statue can continue the process of healing and help to bring about a more united community.

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.

20 comments… add one
  • Morgan Sep 5, 2020 @ 7:50

    Leave the damn statues alone!!!

  • Jimmy Sep 4, 2020 @ 14:54

    Some people feel MLK incited racial violence. When do we start ripping his statues down for not “representing the whole community”?

    • Kevin Levin Sep 4, 2020 @ 15:20

      Yes, a lot of people who hoped to resist civil rights framed it as inciting violence. Some things never change.

    • Helen Bruce Sep 4, 2020 @ 18:36

      Amen

  • Rick Bruner Sep 4, 2020 @ 14:32

    The decision to remove these monuments or not should be left to those in the community in which they reside. Unfortunately too many of these removals are being influenced by outsiders that won’t ever be back to those communities, who have no interest in the community. Bottom line is we all need to respect one another and don’t be hating on someone just because their beliefs are not in line with yours. Agree to disagree.

  • Gilbert Torres Sep 4, 2020 @ 13:19

    Good,
    Now texas wants to put up a memorial for non texas men who took a building by force against the wishes of the locals in the battle of the Alamo
    What they did was illegal then and still illegal today

  • Mary Stevens Sep 4, 2020 @ 12:27

    Leave Confederate memorials and statues where they are. They r remembrances of those who never came home and their remains are known only by God.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 4, 2020 @ 12:56

      You apparently have never looked at an actual dedication ceremony. Thanks for the comment.

    • London John Sep 5, 2020 @ 1:31

      A war memorial has a list of all the local men and women killed in the war in question. A statue of a Confeserate soldier without such a list is an endorsement of the Confederate cause. As it happens, yesterday I was looking at a war memorial in a small English town which carries long lists of names for the 2 world wars, and has a small panel with the names of 3 local man killed in the colonial wars in the decade after WWII. I don’t think that was an endorsement of British colonialism, but probably their families asked for their names to be added.

  • Seth Myers Sep 4, 2020 @ 11:50

    How about we don’t erase history? Keep them up as a reminder, whether you agree or not, just like the concentration camp in Germany. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 4, 2020 @ 12:57

      Concentration Camps are not maintained to celebrate the Holocaust. They are their as reminders and to teach. Monuments are intended to celebrate an individual, event, movement, etc. Some people don’t agree with the idea of celebrating men who fought for a nation committed to maintaining the institution of slavery.

    • Robert Aguilar Sep 4, 2020 @ 22:27

      The founding fathers were all slave owners at one time or another/even George Washington got some when he married Martha/ Thomas Jefferson especially loved his Bed-warmers & now has black descendants/ even recently found out that dude that wrote the national anthem Star bangles Banner was a big slave owner too. Before 1970’s, I would say most if not all minorities have seen the out flag as being racist and symbol of manifest destiny!

  • Scott Sep 4, 2020 @ 9:50

    So when do they start removing dr king monuments…next we will have to remove the Lincoln memorial to so where does it end.. history is history why is it that are history is as important as everyone else’s history….

    • nine_niall Sep 4, 2020 @ 14:48

      Why did our troops help pull down Saddam’s statue?

      Hell, why did our troops tear down a statue of King George during the Revolutionary War?

    • Helen Bruce Sep 4, 2020 @ 18:35

      I agree with you 100%

  • Dave Sep 3, 2020 @ 7:14

    Are there any maps of removed monuments? I’d like to see one with a legend about those removed by legislature, those removed by executive, referendum, or torn down. (and now I guess one taken down by a hurricane). Of course, this would need to be regularly updated, but it would be good to celebrate these processes.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2020 @ 7:19

      Here is my list of removals, which you can certainly plot on a map if you so choose.

      • Nora Carrington Sep 3, 2020 @ 7:33

        Kevin, the link is to this post (“how to remove…”), not a separate post listing all removals to date. just fyi

        • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2020 @ 7:55

          Thanks Nora.

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