A group comprised mostly of black activists dedicated to preserving American history is calling for Confederate monuments and statues to be preserved as reminders and lessons of the darker side of the country’s past.
Sandra Crenshaw, a former Dallas City Council member, teamed up with the Buffalo Soldiers of the American West and Sons of Confederate Veterans to oppose the creation of a task force charged with removing Confederate monuments from the city’s public spaces.
She said the statues serve as a reminder of an important part of American history and that removing them won’t solve any of the real problems facing the country.
“Some people think by taking a statue down that that’s going to erase racism,” Ms. Crenshaw told CBS Dallas. “It’s misguided.”
The group’s efforts highlight the division in thinking about such monuments, which in the aftermath of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, have become the focus of various movements to remove or retain them.
In Georgia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has called for the removal of a giant carving of three Confederate war leaders in the state-owned Stone Mountain.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, she said the edifice, which depicts Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, has no purpose other than the “celebration of racism, terror & division.”
“We must never celebrate those who defended slavery and tried to destroy the Union,” Ms. Abrams said.
In Jacksonville, Florida, City Council President Anna Brosche said she would introduce legislation to relocate Confederate monuments on public land to museums.
“It is important that we never forget the history of our great city; and these monuments, memorials and markers represent a time in our history that caused pain to so many,” Ms. Brosche said in a statement on Monday.
Meanwhile, protesters in Durham, North Carolina, took matters into their own hands by tearing down a statue of a common Confederate soldier holding a rifle, inscribed with the words, “in memory of the boys who wore the gray.”
On Tuesday, Durham County sheriff’s deputies arrested Takiyah Thompson, 22, who climbed a ladder to the top of the statue and tied a rope around its neck that was later used to pull it to the ground.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, public lands hold 1,500 symbols memorializing the Confederacy. These include 718 monuments and statues and about 200 public schools, cities, counties and U.S. military bases named for Confederate icons.
Bishop E.W. Jackson, founder and president of Staying True to America’s National Destiny, said he supports the effort to relocate Confederate monuments to museums and other educational institutions, where they can be celebrated in private by those who wish to honor their ancestors.
“I’m not personally offended by them,” Mr. Jackson said. “I live in Virginia. I’ve seen them all over Virginia for the last 20 years that I’ve lived here. I think the time has come to move them into museums or into historical parks, where those who want to see them can see them and those who don’t want to don’t have to.”
But he took issue with the vigilantism on display in Durham, which he said will only further divide people. He said such actions go against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s teaching about changing minds by winning hearts.
“Look, Dr. King really believed that, in trying to right injustices or right wrongs, your ultimate purpose was to win the hearts of those opposed to you,” Mr. Jackson said. “What we want to do is bring people together, and vandalism and tearing down monuments only give them further reason to be ripped apart.”
The removal of Confederate monuments also raises questions about whether any historical figures from the nation’s past who held unsavory views or committed atrocities should be honored in the public square.
In an interview with CBS anchor Charlie Rose on Monday, the Rev. Al Sharpton suggested that the Jefferson Memorial should be torn down because the man for whom it is named owned slaves.
“When you look at the fact that public monuments are supported by public funds, you’re asking me to subsidize the insult to my family,” Mr. Sharpton said. “And I would repeat that the public should not pay to uphold somebody who has that kind of background.”
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh countered that the Democratic Party, which traces its roots to Thomas Jefferson, should be eradicated.
“If you’re going to really succeed and follow through to the end on this mission,” Mr. Limbaugh said on his show Tuesday, “you’ve got to get rid of the Democrat Party.”
Mr. Jackson said determining which figures to honor in the public square is not always easy. But when it comes to monuments honoring the Confederacy, he thinks the answer is clear.
“The public domain, in my view, since it is technically speaking owned by all of us, should have those symbols that tend to unite us rather than divide us,” Mr. Jackson said. “That’s not always easy, but I think that’s the general principle that we should follow. And I think this is one of those cases where it’s a fairly easy rule to follow.”