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What Happens to Confederate Statues after they’re Removed?

The nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality have quite literally seen potent symbols of the United States’ checkered history toppled from their pedestals.

Statues, monuments, and other images honoring Confederate soldiers, slave owners, and other controversial historical figures have been torn down from Virginia to California – either officially or by the protesters themselves – as the country’s public reckoning over its treatment of African-American and other minorities continues.

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But once the memorials to historical figures, ranging from Robert E. Lee to Christopher Columbus, are ripped from the plinths, public officials then need to figure out what to do with the literal larger-than-life figures.

“Historic figures in granite and iron that seemed protected just a few years ago now face the wrecking ball of public opinion,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement.

If recent history is any judge, many of these statues and monuments are bound for a dusty corner in some darkened warehouse.

Following the violence and chaos that ensued after a white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, there was a similar push to remove symbols of the Confederacy from public places across the nation. Statues of Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, and other Confederates were fast-tracked for removal and shipped off to hidden places until local lawmakers could figure out what to do with them.

“The South seceding from the Union made the process of ending slavery happen much more quickly than if they hadn’t left,” John Fabian Witt, a professor at Yale Law School, told Fox News at the time. “It seems now like neo-Nazis and white supremacists are doing the same thing. Their protests are only making the monuments come down quicker.”

In Baltimore, then-Mayor Catherine Pugh had three memorials to the Confederacy and a statue of Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery, removed following the Charlottesville violence. While she generally kept quiet about the location of the removed monuments, before leaving office she did hint that they are in storage in “a pretty safe place” and that the city was in talks with museums and Confederate cemeteries about taking possession of the statues.

The same fate went to a little-known monument commemorating Confederate veterans that stood for decades in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

While some cities have chosen to stay quiet about what they plan to do with the removed monuments – for fear that they will be vandalized or stolen – others have been less coy.

In the college town of Gainesville, Fla., the United Daughters of the Confederacy were given a statue of a Confederate soldier known as “Ole Joe” after a local history museum declined to accept it and a veterans group objected to its transfer to a nearby park. The United Daughters of the Confederacy, a heritage group that has been accused of supporting white supremacist ideas, erected the monument in 1904 in front of the Alachua County courthouse.

Aside from private groups, some smaller municipalities and even private businesses have been open to accepting Confederate monuments.

The small Kentucky city of Brandenburg in 2017 accepted a 70-foot-tall concrete plinth with an oversized statue of a rebel soldier that the University of Louisville had removed after years of criticism from faculty and students. Brandenburg Mayor Ronnie Joyner, who placed the monument in a riverside park that hosts a biennial Civil War reenactment, said that he didn’t see the monument as “a black vs. white issue” or as “a slavery issue.”

Following the 2015 massacre of nine people inside a Charleston, S.C., by white supremacist Dylann Roof, Maryland’s Montgomery County executive decided to remove a Confederate monument in the Washington D.C. suburb of Rockville. The 13-ton statue of the Confederate soldier, which had stood in the town since 1913, was transferred to White’s Ferry, a privately run Potomac River ferry named after a Confederate general.

Another place where Confederate monuments have ended up after being removed from parks and other public locations are in cemeteries dedicated to Confederate soldiers.

There have so far been no suggestions of creating parks where these statues can be displayed collectively – like in the countries of the former Soviet Union, where outdoor exhibitions in cities have been constructed to house massive busts of Lenin, Stalin and Marx.

One of the logical places for some of these monuments would be museums, where experts say they can be preserved for history and as a teaching tool.

Not all museums, however, are willing to accept these monuments. The Smithsonian in 2017 flatly denied it was going to take the monuments that were recently removed from the New Orleans area.

While the majority of these monuments come from states that joined the Confederacy, there are a number of them in Union states and even in Washington, D.C.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday ordered the removal of portraits in the Capitol of previous House speakers who served in the Confederacy as part of an effort to “appropriately observe Juneteenth” on Friday. She also has called for the removal of 11 statues honoring members of the Confederacy from the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection. While she can’t unilaterally have them taken down outright, she can have them placed in areas of the Capitol generally not visited by the public.

Pelosi did so before during her first stint as House Speaker when she had a statue of Robert E. Lee shifted from a prominent place in Statuary Hall near the House chamber to a room below known as the Crypt.

And it is not just memorials to the Confederacy that are being removed.

California legislative leaders announced earlier this week that an enormous statue of Christopher Columbus and Spain’s Queen Isabella will be removed from the Capitol rotunda in Sacramento, where it was installed in 1883.

“Christopher Columbus is a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations,” Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Assembly Rules Chair Ken Cooley said in a statement. “The continued presence of this statue in California’s Capitol, where it has been since 1883, is completely out of place today. It will be removed.”

It is unclear where the monument will go.

Not all the monuments are going down without a fight.

Despite Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam saying recently that the state will remove an iconic statue of Robert E. Lee from Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue, a judge on Thursday indefinitely extended an injunction preventing him from taking it down.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley Cavedo made the decision after hearing from attorneys for the state and for the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Northam. He gave the plaintiff another 21 days to refile a new complaint.

The statue has stood in a prominent spot along Monument Avenue since 1890 in what was once the capital of the Confederacy. Northam, a Democrat, ordered its removal earlier this month, citing the pain gripping the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced earlier this month plans to remove the other Confederate monuments along Monument Avenue, which include statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. Those statues sit on city land, unlike the Lee statue, which is on state property.

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31 comments

  1. I think it’s all stupidity. They are a part of history like it and is a reminder of how we got where we are. Leave them alone! This is all a political farse and I do not condone any of this crap. I am an American Indian! Am I doing this?? No! It’s not about blacks. It’s about stirring the pot for political reasons. Too many lies from political leaders. Thanks for ruining our America lie lives.

    • Thank you for your comments. Native Americans, blacks, Jews, and Catholics have all been persecuted and been the objects of hate in this country. Let’s remember our mistakes so we won’t repeat them.

      • I definitely agree that it is about stirring up discord in order to continue the hate. They are there to remind us not to repeat that part of history. At this rate we will be living in the world of Orwell’s 1984.

  2. Those who seek to mute history and deny events are doomed to repeat mistakes from which the lesson learned is lost.

  3. Rediculous, History and ones Study experience are the keys to all moral behavior and the lack thereof perpetuates misunderstanding and immorality!

  4. what will happen when they run out of statues – what next

  5. Tell me something. I need help understanding.
    How can a handful of people decide that statues need to be removed?
    Statues have been part of our history. They represent what has occurred in the past. How our country was formed, and how far we have come.
    It really is upsetting how people like pelosi and her constituents can the decisions for us as citizens just because of a political belief.
    Pelosi has done more harm to our country, and we are allowing her hate to destroy us.

  6. Michael O'Connor

    This the dumbest thing that Americans in government have ever done. These statues are a part of are history and show how we have overcome adversities in progression to a powerful country. To erase our past because some ignorant person wants a cause is ludicrous. By doing this the ignorant and uneducated will remain that way until they die as will their next generation.

  7. If Confederate statues and memorials are removed in Richmond, there will be no particular reason to visit downtown Richmond. It will be just another metro area with multiple black faces. I can remain in my area and see all the blacks I care to.

  8. This is exactly why there will never be total peace in this country. For all the protesters and looters get what they want, I loose what I want. Our ancestors built that which the rioters have torn and burned down. Hope they are happy. When I grew up, I was very proud of my ancestors and this country. The spoiled brats tearing up the best country in the world. Getting paid to do it. Have no brains nor any soul. They are all headed to hell!!! The Weak companies that support havoc in this country need to grow a backbone, stand for peace and dignity and thank God the live in USA and not Africa. If you don’t love this country. LEAVE

  9. So sad but history is history and we learn from it and the ones wanting history gone will never be remembered . But the statues and what they represent will be remembered. This is the United States of America and when all is said and done the true American people of any color will be the winners as long as we stand together and learn from the mistakes of the ones who are so full of hate they can not even see the nose in front of their faces. What is going on in my country now will be a blemish told of in years to come and I pray by then we will see each other as neighbors and friends not as a color or a political party. The people who are causing the problem today will only hurt the people that need help not the destruction of their way of life and businesses.Why can we not just have signs that say ALL LIVES MATTER. Sorry but I believe God will take this out of our hands sooner then we can imagine.

  10. Remember this In November, we can do away with these idiots and put our statues back and give a 10 year jail time for anyone that disturbs them . Take our country back.

  11. There is black entertainment TV, miss black America pageant, black lives matter, black owned business support, black history month. Do away with all others. I’m an American. I have nothing against blacks, I have black friends. Because I’ m white I’m racially prejudice. We’re all Americans. American history is our history white, black, red, or whatever. We made mistakes, we continue to make mistakes. Why make it about color. Let’s make it about America united not America divided!

  12. Tearing down all of these statues & monuments is total bullshit.
    You just can’t erase history or the past. I am so sick and tired
    of the BLM crap being shoved down my throat contimnuously.
    I believe that ALL LIVES MATTER!!! Why don’t they protest about
    all of the black on black violence/murders as well as the number of
    black children that end up as collateral damage because of this
    violence.

  13. To cave in to this is horrendous. We need to remember those things do it doesn’t happen again it is history lost. How sad.

  14. Bring these memorials and statuary back tp wjere they are recognized for what they are,…TRIBUTES TO
    PEOPLE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES TO A CAUSE FOR THEIR STATES.. Far less than 10% of these honored young men ever had any part of their families with contact of slaves. Besides these slaves were there because Northern whalers found it was more profitable to buy slaves in Africa, (from Black slave catchers) and transport them to the Sputhern USA. How many whaler memorials have been pulled down, or ships burned at anchor in Northern harbors

  15. Evelyn Hostetler

    Let’s be fair about this .If you want to destroy everything that was connected to slavery and the treatment of African Americans , then you should get rid of the Democrat party. They were and still are the party of slavery.

  16. After reading all of the comments herein, one can only say that life is a balance as each of the writers have indicated. Yes, we admit that we have all lived thru mistakes since 1776 and even as far back as 400 years ago with the arrival of slavery in America. I/we apologize but taking down statues that reflect on that past with wrongs will NOT correct the present. What will help in the present time is to educate and learn from those mistakes and improve the human condition by meeting one another, working with one another and understanding one another. As for where those statues should be, well, we have a big country and let them be assembled in some state, safe and sound, and probably knowing American entrepreneurship, some museum will commence anew and attract people all over the country to learn about the past.

  17. Whether you realize it or not, what you are witnessing now; the protests, riots, destroying or defacing statues by leftist thugs, are all in affect an attack on the significance and contributions of Western Civilization, with the intent to remove all vestiges of the West from history.

  18. It is US History!! Granted not all of our history was good. But it did happen. And if you are someone from the South East. It has meaning to you. I hope they hide them till all this blows over. It would be great that the statues get restored to the original shape. To me history needs to be saved for other generations that are willing to accept it. But what we have now is the people are too childish to understand. Remember they were all Americans!!

    • The US ceased to exist when the idiots elected the half breed muslim nigger in the WH. I’m surprised they didn’t change the name to The BLACK House !

      • Your comment expresses that of a racist. Guess evolution is something that passed you by. Why don’t you go crawl back from under the rock you came. You also must not be a Christian because hate is not one of God’s teachings.

  19. IF, the statues remind them of slavery, what does the Black Museum of Black history do ? Does it not remind them of their slave days ? Nothing will ever change until we are called Americans. Not Mexican Americans or African Americans just AMERICANS ! and we will be one people.

  20. If you want to topple racist statues go get the statue of O’bama.

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