Removal of Confederate monuments causes national controversy

The bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, was recently removed from Tennessees capitol.

Christopher Amrich (Creative Commons License)

A STATUE REMOVED. The bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, was recently removed from Tennessee’s capitol.

Over the past year, local governments removed over one hundred Confederate statues. There have been protests in support and to oppose the movement. The main controversy being if the statues are another way to show oppression and racism or teach basic history

The number of statues being torn down has only been increasing. Multiple states removed up to 50% of their statues, while Tennessee has removed only one. The bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the KKK, was voted to be removed on July 9th 2020.

Several states in the south have built Confederate statues and monuments for many years.

Brian S. Wills is a Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University.

“Many of these statues, and there are rare notable exceptions, are less about ‘Lost Cause’ veneration or some other construct and more about a generation that was getting older,” Wills said. “The war would have been the most significant event in the lives of those who participated and survived. The sense of camaraderie, the desire to remember this important period of their youth and the desire, perhaps innate if not for such public displays, not to be forgotten, was as much a motivating factor in erecting these monuments and memorials as anything else.”

The American Civil War was a conflict between states in the north, who had mostly outlawed slavery, and states in the south that relied on slavery for their economy. The southern states split off and formed their own country, the Confederate States of America. After the war, the two sides reunited in a single United States of America and slavery became outlawed in all states.

Some people believe the statutes should stay for educational purposes and public viewing. On the opposing side, others believe the statues should be moved to places such as museums, or be torn down and thrown away completely

“I think that they don’t have to have statues of them if it really makes people upset,” Jeremiah Sam, a seventh-grade student, said. “Although in their time, they thought that it was right and some thought they were heroes.”

For many, the statues and monuments represent hate that shouldn’t be repeated today. The statues make some people oppressed since those monuments show people who supported a terrible thing, slavery, in a positive light.

“I believe, aside from the slavery issue, that many of the generals had very high morals and integrity, and I believe some of their actions are worth remembering,” Chris Carr, a seventh-grade history teacher, said. “However, I believe that can be remembered and taught without statues.”

Many of the statues taken down have been moved to new homes in historical buildings and museums. A majority have decided to install them as educational monuments instead of putting the statues in a positive light.

The bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest was removed and relocated to the Tennessee State Museum which provided context to his name.

Brian S. Wills is Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University.

“If location in a museum or a cemetery means these types of expression and art are saved, that is better than not doing so,” he said. “A relocation should not be solely for avoidance of the struggles and difficulties of history. Those ‘facts’ would not change regardless.”

When the statues are placed in the museums, they will need context to show their purpose and importance of being there.

On the opposing side, people believe the monuments should stay up in public areas. They don’t see a problem with the statues and believe leaving them up can serve as an education source.

“Any statues, monuments, or memorials can convey a good deal about the times in which they appeared as well as the events or personalities that are their subjects,” Wills said. “The more we can learn from the past, of the times and the people themselves and not what we want them to be or wish they had been, the better it will be for us.”

The statues represent the country’s history although the right thing was not done.

Although some people are in favor of stopping the destruction of the statues, many think they should stay intact, but away from the public eye.

“I am not in favor of destroying the statues,” Carr said. “I think they should be moved away from public view, but they also are primary source artifacts from a contentious time period.  Future generations can gain insight into the thoughts of their ancestors by studying the statues.”

Whether statues are removed or not, history stays the same.

“The Civil War has something for everyone from art and music to politics and diplomacy to the war front and the home front,” Wills said. “Emancipation and other matters we consider important today are ingrained in the story. The Civil War was/is as important as Civil Rights and vice versa. We cannot really understand one without the other.”