Confederate statues began cropping up in American cities in the 1890s to commemorate living and dead Confederate soldiers. Monuments and Civil War reenactments became large-scale forms of commemoration. One hundred fifty years later, citizens are beginning to question the monuments’ place in American culture and cities.
While the discussions of removing monuments to Confederate battles and generals have gone on for years, the issue was brought to the forefront of current discussion after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Aug. 12, a white supremacist rally was met with counter-protests. The clashing of these resulted in 19 injuries and one death as a white nationalist drove his car into the crowd of counter-protesters.
The white supremacist rally the night before and earlier the same day had been centered around the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in the town.
Since August, the discussion has been popular in political forums and everyday conversation. People are asking questions like “What is the right thing to do?”, “Is this about history or white supremacy?” and “Is this a local or national issue?” Needless to say, the issue is relevant to the American public and deserves fair consideration.
We at the Etownian wanted to know what students and faculty thought about the issue. Earlier in the week, a poll was released for students to respond and share their thoughts.
Two questions were asked; “Would you support the removal of a Confederate Monument in your town?” and “Would you support the removal of a Confederate monument in towns across the U.S. like Charlottesville and Baltimore?”, with the second question having an open write-in response.
Among the many write-in responses from the poll, students had ideas for solutions and viewpoints on this issue.
Department Chair and professor of Political Science April Kelly Woessner was asked to weigh in on the political aspect of taking down the monuments.
Ralph W. Schlosser Professor of English David Downing, who has written a book about Southern dissenters during the Civil War, was asked general questions about the Confederacy and where opinions on this topic are rooted.
Regardless of opinion, we are a collective student body and we work together on a daily basis. In a time of “us versus them” thinking, it is important to remember to be willing to have an open dialogue on tough issues.
Quotes from Students and Faculty
“Taking sides seem to be at the center of discussions nowadays. That’s where problems begin – in the ‘us versus them’ mentality that actually caused the Civil War.” -David Downing, Ralph W. Schlosser Professor of English
“Monuments celebrate something, and in celebrating the Confederacy we celebrate a time when African Americans weren’t valued as people.” -Nia Vick, Sophomore
“It is reasonable for people to question the sort of causes and people we want to celebrate.”
-April Kelly Woessner, Department Chair and Professor of Political Science
“If we do not remember and learn from our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them.” -Anonymous Response, Student Poll
“It depends on a lot of factors. When were the monuments built, why were they built, for what purpose do they serve to tell history accurately and effectively?” -Anonymous Response, Student Poll
“Hopefully, opening a discussion will allow us to seek a non-violent and compassionate understanding of the issue.” -David Downing, Ralph W. Schlosser Professor of English