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How Not to Contextualize a Confederate Statue

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Activist with the Dallas Peace Center stand by a statue of General Robert E. Lee during a protest at Lee Park Tuesday, June 30, 2015, in Dallas. John Fullinwider, the organizer of the event that nearly 30 persons showed up to said that they gathered in hopes of prompting a dialogue with city officials regarding confederate symbols around the city. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The battle over Treason in Defense of Slavery remembrance continues, albeit and unfortunately at a much lower temperature than last year. The University of Mississippi has a Confederate statue on its campus. It figured it needed to contextualize that. So here’s what the plaque said:

“As Confederate veterans were passing from the scene in increasing numbers, memorial associations built monuments in their memory all across the South. This statue was dedicated by citizens of Oxford and Lafayette County in 1906. On the evening of September 30, 1962, the statue was a rallying point where a rebellious mob gathered to prevent the admission of the University’s first African American student. It was also at this statue that a local minister implored the mob to disperse and allow James Meredith to exercise his rights as an American citizen. On the morning after that long night, Meredith was admitted to the University and graduated in August 1963. This historic structure is a reminder of the University’s past and of its current and ongoing commitment to open its hallowed halls to all who seek truth and knowledge and wisdom.”

Um…..

The University of Mississippi Department of History was not happy either. It came up with an alternative text, one that actually is useful:

“From the 1870s through the 1920s, memorial associations erected more than 1,000 Confederate monuments throughout the South. These monuments reaffirmed white southerners’ commitment to a ‘Lost Cause’ ideology that they created to justify Confederate defeat as a moral victory and secession as a defense of constitutional liberties. The Lost Cause insisted that slavery was not a cruel institution and — most importantly — that slavery was not a cause of the Civil War. It also conveyed a belief, widely accepted throughout the United States, in white racial supremacy. Campaigns for legally mandated ‘Jim Crow’ segregation and for the disfranchisement of African Americans accompanied celebrations of the Lost Cause; these campaigns often sparked racial violence, including lynching.

“Historians today recognize slavery as the central cause of the Civil War and freedom as its most important result. Although deadly and destructive, the Civil War freed four million enslaved southerners and led to the passage of constitutional amendments that promised national citizenship and equal protection of laws, regardless of race. This monument, created in 1906 to recognize the sacrifice of Mississippians who fought to establish the Confederacy as a slaveholding republic, must now remind us that Confederate defeat brought freedom, however imperfect, to millions of people.”

See, that’s actually contextualizing a statue and telling some truth, as opposed to not wanting to upset racist alumni or white supremacist politicians.

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