Marching For King

This photograph was taken in Brooksville, Florida in 1989.  The caption reads: “Their backs turned to the Confederate memorial, more than 500 people rally in Brooksville before stepping off for a parade on Martin Luther King Day.”  The inscription on the back of the monument reads:

This monument perpetuates the memory of our fallen heroes–We care not whence they came; wether unknown or known to fame; their cause and country still the same; they died and were the gray–leaving to posterity, a glorious heritage–an imperishable record of dauntless valor.

Confederate Monument, Martin Luther King
22 comments… add one
  • dudski Jan 21, 2013 @ 11:28

    Would you argue the soldiers recognized by the monument did not exhibit valor? Is it not possible to recognize the heroic efforts of civil rights advocates in the 1960’s without expunging from the historical recognition the heroism displayed by common soldiers in the 1860’s? Are they mutually exclusive?

    • bummer Jan 21, 2013 @ 12:15

      Your comment does not warrant any argument, stated simply, the power of this particular photo is the poignance of the inscription, on the statue. The African-Americans in front of the statue represent a new form of the same type of valor and rebellion.

      • dudski Jan 21, 2013 @ 14:39

        I would not at all disagree.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro Jan 21, 2013 @ 13:20

      Joining the military and risking- or ultimately giving- your life is something many people cannot bring themselves to do. I believe Confederate soldiers exhibited courage, sacrifice and devotion to what they fought for. But I do not believe you could find a substantial number of them who would have supported the African-American Civil Rights Movement as we know it. And even if they said they were fighting for home, their sweethearts or “three hots and a cot,” The cause that put a uniform on their backs, a rifle in their hands, bullets in their pockets and a flag over their heads was the cause of slavery.

      • dudski Jan 21, 2013 @ 14:34

        I understand your point, but history requires context. You could go to monuments in some of the states which remained in the union and say of the men memorialized you could not find “a substantial number of them who would have supported the African-American Civil Rights Movement as we know it.” If that were the standard could we even put up a monument to Abraham Lincoln?

        150 years ago this month General Grant was being ordered by Washington to rescind an order of his (General Orders Number 11) requiring the expulsion of all Jews from his military district (when he ran for president he said he signed it but didn’t read it). General Halleck’s attitudes toward African-Americans as expressed in his language in the Official Records are, in a word, awful. Should we tear down monuments to them?

        Were we to use the standards of 2013 in regard to the conduct of military operations in civilian areas and tear down the monuments commemorating every unit which engaged in conduct which violates the rules of war, how many on each side would have to be removed?

        If you are arguing we should turn down every monument to Confederate military units then you can and should make that argument if that is what you believe. If not, is there something less you are arguing for? And if so, what?

        Shakespeare said “Use ever man after his desert and who should escape whipping?” That is not to argue moral equivalency, just to ask whether some degree of mercy and context is not due to those who fought on both sides 150 years ago.

        • Bryan Cheesboro Jan 21, 2013 @ 16:30

          Thanks for understaniding my point. I certainly agree with you that racism towards Black people in the 19th century was a commonality on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. In fact, I started to say something about that in response, that you would not have found a substantial number of White people back then in support of the America we have today. But I refrained from that comment because the subject was about African-American civil rights marchers juxtaposed next to a Confederate symbol in a picture. In fact, your own comment- “Would you argue the soldiers recognized by the monument did not exhibit valor?”- as I read it, is only about Confederates.

          Your comments about the ideas of doing away with Confederate monuments, or any historic landmarks that we somehow feel are no longer relevant to our society- reminds me of a few lines of the song “Open Letter To A Landlord” by the rock group Living Colour:

          “Now you can tear a building down but you can’t erase a memory
          These houses may look all run down but they have a value you can’t see.”

          I am absolutely not for the removal of any Confederate monuments… or any monuments, for that matter. To me, a monument serves as a window into what was important to people of our past; the image they wanted to remember it by and maybe what they wanted to say to future generations about themselves. And even though America has changed a lot, especially in the last few years, and old granite parade-rest and equestrian statues of Blue and Gray soldiers seem less and less relevant to us today, especially to people with no ancestral connections to that war, they have immeasurable value.

          • dudski Jan 22, 2013 @ 14:57

            Thanks for your comments.I agree with what you say about time and relevance. There is good and bad about how time treats historical memory. Maybe it will be a refining process and we lose the less important things and be left with what is worthwhile to remember. But I fear we’ll all too soon just forget all of it. A friend at work told me a teacher at his son’s school asked how many of the middle school age children had been to Gettysburg and only one person raised their hand. When I was growing up it would have probably been half the class.

        • Andy Hall (was AndyinTexas) Jan 22, 2013 @ 8:00

          You could go to monuments in some of the states which remained in the union and say of the men memorialized you could not find “a substantial number of them who would have supported the African-American Civil Rights Movement as we know it.” If that were the standard could we even put up a monument to Abraham Lincoln?

          But Lincoln and the Union cause moved forward the cause of civil rights for African Americans immeasurably, even though they themselves didn’t express it in those terms. Jeff Davis and the Confederacy remained

          Bryan is right — there are many attributes to be found in Confederate soldiers that should be remembered, and even honored. But it remains that the larger, national cause for which they fought was a terrible one. Grant himself understood this very well, as he made clear in his recollection of meeting Lee at Appomattox:

          I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who
          had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause,
          though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people
          ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not
          question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were
          opposed to us.

          I don’t think anyone can improve on that assessment.

          • dudski Jan 22, 2013 @ 15:03

            I don’t disagree with you. What’s the old Southern adage about “hate the sin, love the sinner”? You can understand what the right side of history was and still not begrudge someone 140 years ago who put up a monument to the people from their community who fought in the war. It’s not the monuments which are the problem as much as what people made of them afterwards.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 21, 2013 @ 13:22

      I don’t know if there is an objective answer to your question. It seems to me that the choice to be photographed with their backs to the monument provides at least one response in time and space.

      • dudski Jan 21, 2013 @ 14:38

        It’s a great caption and poetic irony, but the simpler explanation is if you look at the monument’s location in Google Earth it is almost in the street. Plus, if you were listening to a speaker at the court house you wouldn’t be facing the monument.

        • larry longmore Jan 21, 2013 @ 16:13

          whatever gets you through the night honey. I bet you think the Jews should celebrate the heroic valor of the Schutsastaffel

          • dudski Jan 21, 2013 @ 16:30

            I’m not saying anybody should celebrate anything they aren’t inclined to. Just arguing we can’t, or at least shouldn’t, retroactively judge people from 150 years ago by today’s standards. I’m betting 150 years from now alot of what we’re doing today won’t look too good in the rear view mirror.

            • Richard Jan 21, 2013 @ 17:26

              IMO, now and 150 years ago, they were supporters of an economic system and a way of life which relied on the extremest oppression and abuse of fellow human beings.

  • bummer Jan 21, 2013 @ 7:51

    Bummer believes that the inscription on the monument is a testament to the perserverance of the African-Americans, “imperishable record of dauntless valor.” Not the word gray.

    Great picture and post!


  • jamesharrigan Jan 21, 2013 @ 4:39

    It is sad, though not surprising, that no white people appear in this picture (unless you count the stone confederate).

    • Kevin Levin Jan 21, 2013 @ 4:59

      I hear you, but at the same time there is something very powerful about this photograph. I am definitely going to keep it in mind for next year when I get to teach my course on Civil War Memory.

      • jamesharrigan Jan 21, 2013 @ 7:53

        agreed, Kevin, it’s a powerful photo. But I get depressed about MLK Day sometimes – it shouldn’t be thought of as a day for black people, but as a day for all Americans, just like Lincoln’s Birthday.

        • Patrick Young Jan 21, 2013 @ 9:22

          This morning I wrote this on facebook:

          “When I was a young father, Cecilia and I took our boys to Martin
          Luther King’s boyhood home and his grave in Atlanta. Later, we went to
          Memphis to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is at the Lorraine
          Motel where Dr. King was murdered. We were guided by a 70 year old man
          who had participated in the events of that fateful week in our history.
          Parents should skip one more trip to the corporate amusement centers so
          you can teach your kids why blacks won’t be forced to sit is the
          “colored section” of American life any more.

          A friend wrote back that she had taken her kids to the same place. She added:

          “A guy I know asked why we were doing so much Black History. I said, “because it’s not Black History, it’s AMERICAN history.”

        • Bryan Cheeseboro Jan 21, 2013 @ 13:22

          Who told you it was a day for only Black people? The racial reconciliation that MLK marched, sat-in and died for was for ALL Americans. Not just Black people.

          • Kevin Levin Jan 21, 2013 @ 13:37

            I believe he was commenting on the photograph and the lack of any white marchers.

          • jamesharrigan Jan 22, 2013 @ 5:14

            Bryan, that was exactly my point.

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