Public Safety

Why So Many Monuments?

Sites of Confederate monuments, “Whose Heritage: Public Symbols of the Confederacy,” Southern Poverty Law Center.

Memorials to the Confederacy are hardly isolated to the South. In fact, the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Whose Heritage” report in 2019 includes a detailed map of such sites.

The SPLC documents memorials to the Southern rebellion as distant as Maine, California and Washington — not to mention Washington, D.C. Most, not surprisingly, are clustered throughout the South.

Most of the monuments did not appear immediately after the war. quotes Mark Elliott, an American history professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, saying that “The vast majority of them were built between the 1890s and 1950s, which matches up exactly with the era of Jim Crow segregation … . All of those monuments were there to teach values to people,” Elliott says. “That’s why they put them in the city squares. That’s why they put them in front of state buildings.”

Those values, Elliott said, include “glorification of the cause of the Civil War.”

In connection with massive protests in various cities sparked by George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, several monuments have come under attack, including the statue of Robert E. Lee in the Virginia state capital, which that state’s governor vowed to remove.

Since the 2015 mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, 114 Confederate monuments had been removed, while more than 1,700 still stand, according to the SPLC.