Should We Tear Down The Statues Of The Confederate Generals? - And Response

Friday, September 8, 2017

When President Trump recently wrote his tweet: “They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” he wasn’t referring to Civil War monuments that we know so well in Chattanooga. The military parks that surrounds us on Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain, Moccasin Bend, and in Chickamauga were created by an act of Congress in 1890 “to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

No, the statues in the public’s crosshairs, on the whole, were commissioned by one group. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) erected most of the statues that people want to remove.

The UDC started as a small group of about 30 women in 1894 in Tennessee. In the next few decades their numbers spread across the South and even to the North, and they had erected over 1000 Confederate statues.

Their statues, unlike the ones of the national park, were not approved by Congress; there was no public input, no community debate associated with their decisions, and no procedures for approval, like we associate today with public art. And they have a very different purpose.

According to Karen Cox, author of Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture,this work was done by women “because Southern white men who are defeated can’t go around building monuments to themselves.”

After the riots in Charlottesville over the statue of General Lee, even the UDC, in contrast to Trump, issued a statement that they were “grieved that certain hate groups have taken these symbols as their own,” and they denounced “any individual or group that promotes racial divisiveness or white supremacy.” Some people might rightly see that statement as disingenuous.

Let’s look deeper into our history.

Another movement took hold in the South at the same time as the North/South reunification. Perhaps the North wasn’t looking so closely or had just grown tired.

According to Fitzhugh Brundage, professor of history at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the spread of Confederate statues was an “orchestrated effort” at a time “when the South was fighting to resist political rights for black citizens.”

Racial segregation in the South was enforced by strict laws and customs such as requiring that blacks drink at separate water fountains, step aside when a white person passed on the side walk, or not to look a white person in the eyes; as well as prohibiting voter registration, limiting employment outside of certain jobs, or criminalizing interracial marriage.

The erection of Confederate statues gave force to segregation laws. The monuments to Confederate generals, often placed in conspicuous places of civic importance, said to whites: “You are still in control,” and to blacks, “You are not free.” 

Because the statues were privately paid for and installed, African Americans or any whites who objected had no voice in the matter. In fact, the statues implied “a degree of white cultural unity that had never existed in the region” before, during, or after the Civil War, according to Brundage. They perpetrated a myth of Confederate unity in the South and marginalized dissent.

The statues of Confederate generals proliferated at the same time that lynching was rampant—and they served the same purpose: to intimidate and threaten both blacks and whites from acting out of line with the laws of segregation.

It’s no wonder that many blacks chose to migrate out of the South. Like lynching, those statues spoke clearly enough.

The national history that we all share.

Chattanooga is awash in Civil War monuments. It’s part of our landscape, like the rocky bluffs of the wooded hillsides.

But these monuments don’t commemorate the cause of the confederacy. They recognize the movements of both armies and numbering the dead and wounded of both sides. . The theme was reunification: Veterans from both sides attended the dedication at Chickamauga in 1895. This is our national history, and it is extremely popular with tourists and scholars alike.

Why A.P. Stewart was chosen

A.P. Stewart was the natural choice for the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy because they are the A.P. Stewart Chapter of the UDC.

His background is mixed. According to records, A.P. Stewart did not support secession nor did he own slaves, but when Tennessee seceded, he went with his home state. He was one of the generals at the battle of Chickamauga. But after the war when he heard that Congress had passed a bill to create the military park at Chickamauga, he moved to the area and was active in the creation of the park along with Union veterans. Later he became its first commissioner.

The local chapter of the UDC could have recognized A.P. Stewart for his civic contributions after the war, but instead they dressed him as a Confederate general and included only these letters beside his name and dates of his life – “CSA.”

So what do we do now?

Because a privately funded group installed the statue and because it carries a divisive message that does not represent the nation as a whole, it should not be on the public square in front of the courthouse. It is not right for taxpayers to walk by his statue commemorating him as a warrior against the nation on their way to do business with the county.

However, we have a unique opportunity here to handle this issue in a way that is appropriate to honor all of our citizens.

We can leave him where he is but accompany his statue with the full and accurate historical context as described above. Or he can find a new home in the military park that he helped create.

Either way, this time around, the public, not a private organization, should be included in the discussion.

Eleanor M. Cooper

Community engagement strategist and author of Grace: An American Woman in China, 1934-74.

* * *

Eleanor Cooper's research on the origin of the A.P. Stewart statue at the Hamilton County Courthouse has given our city and county citizens a chance for a reasonable discussion based on now knowable facts rather than the usually, highly charged arguments with only personal reflections to guide the discussion.

 

Knowing who the originators of this statue were, how it was paid for, how it was placed, and the time and milieu in which it was created should give us a better chance to make an intelligent decision as to its right and/or appropriateness to be placed on the grounds where it sits than when we did not know before Ms. Cooper's research. 

 

Franklin McCallie



Roy Moore Has Not Upheld The Constitution

Regardless of whether Judge Roy Moore was involved in the sexual assault of minors 40 years ago or not, there is a larger problem with Roy Exum's assertion in today’s Chattanoogan that he would vote for the former judge if he could. This, in a nutshell, represents a serious crisis in our country. For some reason Roy Exum seems to think that Judge Roy Moore is the candidate who ... (click for more)

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to  news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone number. We do not post the contact information, but need it for verification. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more ... (click for more)

Longest-Serving County Official Knowles Is First In Line To Sign Up For New Term

Bill Knowles is one of the longest-serving officials in Hamilton County history, and he's not through yet. County clerk since 1974, he was the first in line on Friday morning to pick up his petition for re-election. Then he beat everyone back with the completed form. Mr. Knowles said, "I ran in 1974 on a campaign of ending the long tag lines. We put in a tag by mail system ... (click for more)

River Gorge Explorer Will Log Final Cruises In January

After operating on the Tennessee River for more than nine years, Aquarium President and CEO Keith Sanford informed staff and volunteers that cruise operations aboard the River Gorge Explorer will be ending in January. “After developing a new strategic plan and carefully evaluating the Aquarium’s resources, we have decided to stop operating the boat,” said Mr. Sanford. “We are ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Gets First Win For Coach Lamont Paris

Lamont Paris came into the post-game interview room at McKenzie Arena Thursday night with a smile on his face and he had to feel good after getting his first win as the head coach of the Chattanooga Mocs basketball team. We all know that the Mocs are the youngest team in the NCAA this fall and they had lost their first two games on the road, including an embarrassing 89-47 loss ... (click for more)

Bradley Central Opens With 49-38 Win Vs. William Blount

Bradley Central’s Bearettes opened their high school basketball season Thursday night with a 49-38 victory over William Blount in Maryville, Tennessee. Senior Rhyne Howard, a Miss Basketball finalist last season, led the Bearettes with 20 points and Kimia Carter added 12. Lexi Campos paced William Blount with 11 points. Bradley’s proud defense forced 23 turnovers, ... (click for more)