Dallas' Monuments to the Confederacy Must Come Down

It's time to exorcise the ghosts of the Confederacy that haunt Dallas.The city has a massive Confederate War Memorial near the Dallas Convention Center that incorporates statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Albert Sidney Johnston, as well as Confederate President Jefferson Davis. We have a Robert E. Lee Park in Oak Lawn that features an equestrian statue of the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia near a replica of a slavery-era plantation home. The great seal of the Confederate States of America can be found at Fair Park. And although the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School will be changed, eight other Dallas schools remain named after prominent Confederates. It is time for these tributes to the Confederacy to come down.The Confederacy was established to preserve, protect and defend human bondage. Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens declared in a March 21, 1861, speech that the Confederacy rested "upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition."The Confederate monuments were built, and these schools were named, at a time African-Americans were systematically denied their constitutional right to vote and had no voice about who should be honored in the public square. The monuments are of, by and for an earlier generation of white men and women and disregard the ideals, dreams and aspirations of African-Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Asian-Americans and others — indeed, many white citizens — who make up the mosaic of present-day Dallas.The Robert E. Lee we so elaborately honor in Dallas was a harsh slave master. Wesley Norris, who suffered the misfortune of being owned by Lee, recounted that he endured a beating after he attempted to escape in 1859. When Norris was captured, Lee said he would teach Norris "a lesson he would never forget." Lee then ordered Norris stripped to the waist, given 50 lashes and subjected to having brine rubbed in the wounds. After the Civil War, Lee bitterly opposed black enfranchisement. He does not deserve to have statues erected and schools named in his honor.Some will argue that the memorials, statues, plaques and school names paying tribute to Confederate leaders are "history." But there is a fundamental difference between history and propaganda. History does not have as its primary object glamorization. History is about analysis, context and explaining the origins of ideas, institutions and events. Confederate memorials do none of these things.This spring, the city of New Orleans made international headlines when it removed four racist monuments. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu explained why after the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in his city: "The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered."We are not prisoners of the prejudices or agendas of past generations. It's time for Dallas to catch up to New Orleans. It's time for Dallas to stop honoring men who deserve opprobrium not praise. It's time that our public monuments stop promoting white supremacy. From Lee Park to Fair Park, from the Dallas Convention Center to our schools, it's time to bury a thankfully lost cause and expel the Confederate ghosts who have haunted us too long.Michael Phillips is a historian and the author of "White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001." He lives in Plano and wrote this for The Dallas Morning News. Email: mphillips3925@earthlink.net  Continue reading...

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