tv The Civil War Confederate Monument Controversies CSPAN July 28, 2018 8:13pm-9:09pm EDT
watching coverage of a conference on civil war icons byd earlier today, hosted the shenandoah valley battlefields foundation. all is american history tv, weekend, every weekend on c-span3. we will get started with answering a few questions we have been hearing lunchtime.lunchtime we have gotten a lot of comments about getting involved with the foundation. is help using to do preserve the memory of the american civil war and on of those people who lived through it in the valley by becoming a member. and theye of our staff can give information on how to do that. the should answer most of
questions. membership is the key. not only does it help us by about a faux bland, it helps us battlefield land, it helps us to do events like this one. i'm excited to introduce our speaker, christy coleman. she began her career as an interpreter at the williamsburg foundation. levels ofars, she had responsibility, finally serving as the director of historic programs. she was named president and ceo of the charles wright museum in detroit. she was named president and ceo of the american civil war center, and in 2013 she helped orchestrate the merger of museum ofr with the the confederacy to create the
american civil war museum, serving as co-ceo and then named the chief executive officer of that museum. ms. coleman lectures extensively. she will be no stranger to many of you. she has written a number of articles as well as served as a screen writer for educational productions and she is a sought after historian for media outlets. the boards of on the american alliance of museums and for state and local history and continues to be engaged with these and other organizations, active in every community in which she works, her accolades business 40oit's under 40 list in 2000, the key to the city of toledo, she has ist, recognized on an it l
and her honors go on and on. it is our pleasure to introduce to you our friend, christie coleman. [applause] ms. coleman: good afternoon, everyone. i am delighted to be with you and to talk about something that has clearly taken a life of its own, yes? aboutwe are going to talk when the sacred and the profane are one. we start this off understanding that nothing, i mean nothing happens in a vacuum. at whatbegan our work became the american civil war
museum, you need to understand that endeavor was the result of of intensegood years theaboration on what became commemoration of the american emancipation. it was an attempt to bring these narratives together. why? , thearrative had dominated history of the confederacy. the other part of it had been paved over with an interstate on top of the bodies of the dead. place that served as a center of the domestic slave trade. it has been estimated close to of all african-americans in this country have an
ancestor that was sold or traded from richmond. this history remained covered under a parking lot with an interstate running through it. whydoes not have to wonder in our city monuments and confederate symbols have diverse meaning. not just inhave, richmond, but around the country. this piece comes from the southern poverty law center and was published in 2015 by the business insider and it showcases how many places around the country we find confederate symbols in the public space, whether that is schools, monuments, and the like. you will notice they are
virtually everywhere, even in places that were territories during the actual war. then one has to ask the question, when did they go up? onnow even though these are large screens for you, it may be difficult to see. there is a period of monument building in the south. the first period we can refer to riod, asourning pe soldiers are dying, they are being placed in cemeteries, some of them having bodies taken home. cemeteries,vate smallchurch cemeteries, stone sculptures, sometimes for the wealthier, headstones that honor their service to the
confederacy. reconstruction, after reconstruction is abandoned by the united states government, we see something else happened. at the same time, we begin to -- we arebuilding running into the 25th anniversary of the war itself. there are beginning to be commemoration ceremonies, which are fascinating. of buildingeriod that the reality was they are thatring at the same time deliberate actions are being toen in legislatures disenfranchise black male voters . to begin a practice of concentrating black voting power
and a time when extreme violence is perpetrated against those who are fighting back against that disenfranchisement. environment, the 2015s of the summer of when america to her core nine church members of the mother manual church in south carolina were executed during prayer service. the space where they should have been the most safe, the most secure, and the violence against of thes reflected violence perpetuated during the modern civil rights era when churches were bombed and preachers killed and the like. theica remembered and when young man who was responsible for the deaths of those people was identified this way, in his
pictures and posts and social media presence, the response was swift. the confederate flag and symbols thereof became once again a reminder of america's domestic terrorism. for those of us in the public history realm, we were getting the phone calls from our communities, from the press, asking, what does the flag really mean? we are hearing all kinds of commentary about the flag. say at the will american civil war museum, we ask, which confederate flag? we wanted people to understand the symbols that had become
withivocally aligned racism and white supremacy actually was one of many. it is deliberately chosen for reasons we will discuss later. initially, which flag are you talking about? there are home guard flags. there is three different national flags. after a while, it became a copout. we had a responsibility to talk about what we knew the community was asking. they were not asking about a particular battle, they were asking about this one, what most referred to as the army of tennessee, the tennessee flag, the rectangular one. this is the one associated with the ku klux klan and other groups. it is that flag of nathan bedford forrest, that would
become known as the symbol of oppression, especially be modern civil rights era. whether you like it or not, the reality is they were no loud cries from sub and saying do not .surp our images do not take them from the battles. there are people living in america right now, like many of thein this room, who recall 1950's and the 1960's as young people and what was happening. the question of which heritage are we trying to preserve and keep when we think about confederate symbols? again it becomes messy. if we are really intellectually and emotionally honest about this, we understand they are and profanefor some to others.
the question moved from dealing with flags that are on state houses to, what do we do with the symbols themselves? thatundreds of statues stand in the front of courtyards and parks in particular. few people were having a itversation about removing from cemeteries. this was about the public square where the public is responsible for the financial upkeep of these monuments. in many cases, these monuments cities, urbanal centers, which, historically, as contemporarily, our
spaces that are younger, spaces diverse, to be more and spaces that tend to be more politically progressive. so as these conversations are taking place, as the fever is starting to build and build and build, we start to see the first set of counter protests. july of 2015, we see 173e were 173, at least, pro-confederate flag rallies. as you can see from the map, central florida, western and easternvirginia,
carolina, sorry, western carolina, you can see the range where people are taking a stand. these are some of the images we saw. those two summers. we knew that eventually when the sales were going to go up. number of confederate battle flags, particularly the tennessee, would find itself with suppliers unable to keep up . it spoke volumes. we hadown gift shop, made the decision, a long time ago, actually, we would put them
because we wanted to have a conversation with visitors about the other types of flags and understand the meaning of why they were trying to acquire the items for us. it was quite a conversation among the staff. that isve a staff diverse in terms of age range, background, so forth. about theto them talk conversations they were having with our public and the phone calls coming in as people wanted to place orders helped us just bend we could not reactive. at some point we had to enter the fray of the conversation to help our community. i have said it before and i will as a museum, a place of public trust, as
academic historians, when our communities are in crisis, it is irresponsible to sit to the side . it does not mean we take sides. what it does mean is we have the wherewithal, if we have the artifacts, the archives, the information to help the conversation become more informed and more civil, we are failing you as a public institution if we are not engaged. that is what our institution chose to do. us, we started inside thinking about, well, what is really out there? whencame more to the fore 2017 i waser of
asked to serve as cochair of the monument avenue commission. initial, i would say, naive and wishful thinking of you can gete said this done in three or four months. charges,ly got two figure out how to interpret who else should go out there on monument avenue? so we figured, we will a couple of public meetings, have a few conversations, set up a website so people can send letters, etc. as the letters began pouring in, and i started going through them, the level of passion, the level of rage, the level of pain
had a new dimension. stock came tohe came to me,hought this is not going to be quick and it should not be easy. we've got to figure out a better way to hear what people are saying. he absolutely agreed. so we took a look. we stepped back. course we had to see what everybody else was doing. published about the most prominent of the confederate statuary around the country. robert e lee is the one you see in green, which may be difficult to see.
robert e lee is in green. jefferson davis is in grave. stonewall jackson in yellow. jeff stewart is the blue one. forrestnathan bedford him,e top left and below pierre. you know who i am talking about. they are the most prominent on the landscape. in richmond, we have a number of confederate statues throughout the city. the one that is more prominent are the five on monument avenue, the grand boulevard developed as
a real estate boon. a thing folks don't know and we had the opportunity to share, it was never, monument avenue was never intended to be confederate row. it happened happenstance. leeappened shortly after died. it was clear everyone wanted to do some kind of memorial to lee, and it became a conversation about it can be nowhere else but richmond. it took 20 years. when it was finally determined to place it on the western side theren that had nothing but an open field, and the desire to bring this old heart,
the house building began in earnest. today it has some of richmond's , in expensive real estate the state, frankly. the area is a national historic district. each of these monuments, save two, are considered historic landmarks. i'm sure everyone in this room has been there at one time or another. would that be a fair assessment? raise your hand if you have been there. they are massive. lee stands at 60 feet. we started digging further, taking a look at this trend of virginia's building. does it mirror what is happening on the national scale from the slide i showed you?
it did. from 1880-1899, and actually, that was not supposed to happen. it is a touchscreen. that is lovely. until 1910 is where we see the boon in that monument building. what you'reunities, finding is communities with less financial wherewithal, and i whiteo say, let me say, members of the community would gather resources and pay for what they could afford. many times that was a mail-order statue. that is fascinating because i was in michigan in february, fun
times. we passedpeech and as the public square, i recognized the civil war soldier, except it was the same guy in front of the courthouse in chesterfield, his clothing is different. it is the same guy. this is what happened. them, whichoduced allowed communities to build these smaller scaled things. they ended up in front of the courthouse. virginia, as these monuments, at the height of monument building, stripping black voting rights, they make a series of , theyesigned to protect
did not use the language of war memorials. to the war between the states. they shall not be altered, moved, or destroyed. this is significant because in the state legislature, there was opposition to this. for the most part, they were the republicans who were a progressive party that were trying to expand voting rights. they were very different in terms of the platform of the time. losing thelso political power they had in the
1860's and 1870's. they were losing political power to the conservative democratic party, also quite different. time we see this the height of the building of these monuments. the language on the monuments becomes far less ambiguous. they do not just speak to our fallen dead, the boys from such and such county. insidious.far more when we started asking the question, and we started going through all of the letters we received, what i am showing you lettersle of the 1700 the public sent in to the monument avenue commission. the majority of those were with 60% in the
richmond region, which was important to track as much as possible. you don't want those interlopers in there. what we found was that on the surface when we asked the question, where we read through their letters, are you in support of keeping the monuments them, we context to found 26.7% said keep them and add context from the letters. when we asked remove the 18%.ents, we got when it said relocate the monuments, and this is something museums heard a lot of, but the
mini museum, i am here to tell you most museums cannot afford to maintain statuary, to maintain statuary is an expensive thing. if anybody is asking about why is lincoln on the property, that is the property of the national park service. it was placed it there so it could be removed if it needed to be by the national park. i digress. a considerable amount of money to care for them. some of these are not small things you can slip in a gallery. where do you store them? they are bronze, stone, all kinds of edifices that would take away precious resources from other work the museum chooses to do. by mission, has to do. museums around the country made it clear relocating these to our
facilities was out of the question. had keep with no changes and found 22% supported that. last, the undecided, the folks who are like, i don't know. i want to know more. this is what i think. a lot of those letters were based on, especially after august 12, 2017, a lot of the letters after that were, i do not know what to do now because the violence in charlottesville and the death of that young woman weighs heavy. we do not want that enrichment. we don't want that in virginia. what is the solution?
as i said, we went to work and we restructured the way we think about and plan for our work on the commission. , we win looking for essays and articles and statistics to inform ourselves so we could help inform our communities. it had to be a conversation. we had to establish some way for our to establish some way for our community not only to talk but to listen. and one of the amazing ideas that came from one of our smaller planning sessions with the public was his idea of -- well, what if you just found a way for you to go to the group that wants to talk, and that is what we did.
we made ourselves available. in ent out into the desert to-by-twos and three-by-twos whatever organization wanted to talk to us. they could have a back-and-forth conversation about, again, what we were learning, both in terms of the history as well as what others were saying and thinking about all of this in our community. we sat through presentations where we were told to just listen. we were not to say a word. and we do that. -- did that. we had sessions where the groups actually did facilitate a dialog with professional -those were the churches --had facilitated dialogue, and we were able to walk around the room and listen in on these smaller listening sessions, 100 people who had gathered to do this, and it was,
again, extraordinary. but there was still the question of what to do on the landscape, given everything that we had learned. most --probably the sell a mountain, right? because last i heard, they were planning on adding another face. when you have things of this scale -- what is their meaning? at have to look carefully why and when they were put up and what they say, so we did that, too. we looked at not only what our monument set in richmond, but we also looked at other communities around the country that were having these conversations, and of course we all remember what happened in north carolina. we know what happened in new orleans. and the back story is so important, right?
in new orleans, just like richmond, it did not happen in a bubble. it did not happen because nine people were murdered. it happened because that community was grappling with things in their public square that were in a complete defiance of the majority of the population and the sensitivit. in new orleans, they will taiyo -- this is a conversation that has been going on for 20 years. they have been wanting to get statue in liberty park. this was a statute specifically honor the great anglo-saxon race for driving out, you know, reconstructionists and reclaiming white supremacy. that is essentially what this thing said straight it is honoring a massacre against black citizens, in the middle of the public square, being paid for by that public' moneys!
that is what started the conversation. and if you look for it carefully, you begin to see that we have similar things on the landscape in each of our communities, where some of this language is dominant. now, is that to suggest -- now here is an example. can you see that? took overtes troops the government, recognized white supremacy in the south and gave us our state. yeah, i want my money paying for the. truth of the matter is they try to to cover it up with new language and new plaques, but the image above remained. is here, in memoriam, no nation rose so white and fair, none felt so pure of crime. this is the language that we
begin to see taking over the landscape, particularly after 1900. surge ofee the next monument building in the 1950's and the 1960's, it is absolutely adjacent to the modern civil rights movement. and the response of communities today, well, they are not sacred to many of the. and the question that we have is -- what do we do to make sure that the various values that people have attached to these over time, that we are able to bring together a language of understanding this past and all of its complexity? you cannot divorce the reality that many of them are put up in place. again, there is sort of the original grieving period, you know. it is very different.
because most of those actually did not have words on the, but the later ones do, and as i said, they become more and more about something else, about the underlying ugliness that continues to permeate american culture, even to this day. that is what people are responding to. so the question as to whether or to, as a society, we decide look at these pieces in historical context, to understand that, yes, there are many, especially the small ones in the community courtyard, they are placed there is a way to remember. they are placed there in response to trauma and grief. and with any trauma or grief, there are five stages. there is the initial shock, there is the denial, there is the anger, there is the bargaining, and then there is
reallynce of what happened to every single one of us. and that is at the end of the day what we chose to do with the richmond monument avenue commission and what we choose to do on a daily basis at the american civil war museum in richmond, virginia. this story come of this history did not exist in a bubble. this history, this story is all of ours, and we must recognize extraordinary narrative or piece of art, there is more than one site to look at it, but to appreciate its wholeness, you have to be willing to look at all of it. with that, i say thank you, and we will take questions now. [applause]
>> do we have any questions? remember, let's just go over this because we have not talked about this since lunch, please no statements, only questions, and keep your questions brief so ashave a much time possible. go ahead. >> when you are looking at the monuments on monument avenue and comparey, did you all yourselves or look at other periods of time or other countries, for example, where monuments have been removed? ms. coleman: the question was, for those of you did not hear it, during our study with the
course of the monument avenue, did we look at other practices or options in other parts of the ,world, and the answer is loosely, yes, we did. as you can imagine, people in other conversations would say "we are not isis! we do not tear down statues!" i heard "isis" so much, it made me crazy. let's back up a little bit. let's look at what other countries do. in some countries like an pilot germany,and, in those statues were moved from public areas, and most of them were put in parks and containment parks where people can go. they do not allow for any demonstration, they do not allow for any gathering of groups in those places, but it is preservation of the artwork.
so we saw a number of examples of that. had, during one conversation with someone who says well, in germany, they did not tear down the concentration camps. they are open for people to talk about the. yes, that is absolutely true, but they also do not have statues to nazi leadership on the landscape, and they did in fact keep the concentration camps to remember. but in the united states, for so long, we turned our plantations into these fantasy lands about moonlight, magnolia, and tea on the porch, and it is only been in the last 20 to 25 years that we even had a conversation about what happened to the hundreds of people that were enslaved on these properties. with referral to call them our servant, our people, "we were good to them." on the enterprise, they could sell your child at any point in time, so we have to be mindful that, yes, there are a lot of
different things that were happening, and we were looking at some of that, but the end of the day, to really try to keep -- at least think a little bit bigger, but even around the question of contacts as we begin to think about what context meant, we realized it meant a whole of more than just changing words on a plaque. you can create whole new meaning just by adding a different kind them or with to them, and the perfect example is the wall street ball. -- bull. whole different meaning when the artist but the little girl standing bear against the bull. and it allowed us to see something a little differently. next question. >> anderson cooper did an interview with professor hader from the university of michigan, recently rerun on "60 minutes."
nationwide, certainly, maybe even beyond, a look at what you and your commission have been wrestling with. you?hat been helpful to has that been helpful getting more input from people to the commission? ms. coleman: the publicity has been useful. helpful -- if you read any of the comment pages -- which i really don't ever recommend -- at the end of the day for us, it was an opportunity to really talk about the fact that -- and i will say this, what is amazing is since the commission report has been released, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. yes, there are pockets of individuals who, you know, are
trying to do whatever they can to make sure nothing happens, but what became abundantly clear to us in the process is leaving monument avenue as an is is not acceptable to the majority. where wet a matter of can find our balance in this moment in time. 20 years from now, they may choose something else. yes, sir. >> can you speak a little bit more to the commission's recommendations and why that is what they recommended? ms. coleman: essentially, the the commission is a 2500 page document. themselvesndations are about two pages specific to the three charges that we had. what could the context look like, who would you add, and finally, if any art could be removed, when, where, how, etc.?
mades i said, virginia law that restrictive, so we had to couch our language on that one and say pending current litigation with changes in the state law with our recommendations there. -- they are really quite there are nuances and questions and comments that came from the public. think having written most of that i would have it on the top of my head. i have just been resting my brain for the last couple of weeks, but essentially we said we have to have context, and think about it in terms of bringing in the artistic community and so forth. think about these are who the public said are some of the other figures they would like to see on monument avenue and how that can be created. and then we talked about jefferson davis for richmond being the one monument in
richmond that was more akin to the lost cause narrative and its style, structure, and language on the placard. but we also recommended that, because of the artistic merit of the peace, that there were options for elements of it, and we provided that. you can get it online. it is very much available online, at the website monument avenuecommission.org. it is right there on the first page. yes, ma'am. >> first, i want to apologize, because this is going to be more of a statement. and a question. >> only questions. >> it will be a question. did you not have pictures of the people who are taken back the image of the flag? you only have pictures of people who are using the flag negatively. ms. coleman: actually, i did, if you have looked more carefully, you would have seen pictures of
people, reenactors, yes, i did. >> this is not the flag is what i saw. ms. coleman: i would be happy to show it to you later. what is your question? >> you said "how can we stop this?" we need more education in our schools. kids are being taught the very minimal about history. "hating on the statues is racism." kids in school are not taught. i have answered it, thank you. ms. coleman: yes, sir. >> with a timeline of when the monuments were placed and certain other historical events other time,d at the coincidence or not, has anyone done a study of how long it takes from conception to actual unveiling for one of the menu monuments to come to fruition -- major monuments to come to
fruition? at the time, monuments could -- if the money was there and available -- they could be erected fairly quickly. i the particular cases of monument avenue, it took 20 years for the lee monument for a number of reasons. number one, they could not agree on the type of the monument, the design of the monument. they had to raise the money, they had to figure out exactly where it was going to go. so it did take quite a time. other communities that decided to do them in front of the courthouses us with generic soldiers, and did not take long at all. less than a year. yes, sir. because iam curious, have learned something here today. what i am curious about is, you latter stages, so i will say during the 1920's, up,he monuments when
became more explicit with the verbiage, was there any change in terms of the people that were being memorialized. initially saying they were the kind of generic confederate the likeness of lee or jackson and such, but during this period where it became more explicit,, where they like, say, ond-tier confederate's? ms. coleman: that is a very good question. what we found is the statues to the big boys, the big icons, confederate icons, those
dominate, and in many cases, those particular statues just, like the one in richmond, it just as "lee." there is nothing else there. as we move along the timeline, they get more language, they may talk about a certain battle where they died. but the language that takes on terms of the, in lost-cause narrative or white supremacy specifically, those tend to be more generic may be a where it singular soldier or something like that. there are some instances where it is an individual in particular, but yes. a very good question, thank you. ok. in terms of the demonstration that took place, the bubble, and
your total number in terms of , estimates participated in that was 23,000. 23,000 people in the united states is a drop in the bucket, but that seems to be driving the narrative. host leman: [inaudible] about the counterdemonstrators? >> right, the counterdemonstrators. who are way over here on some side. and the number was 23,000 -- that is nothing. that is not even a small county tends toia, but that be what is focused on and is driving so much of the
narrative. and how do you get it back to where -- because with those people, you cannot have a conversation. it away fromget them and back to the people on both sides who can at least have a civil conversation, which to me is what you all accomplished in richmond? ms. coleman: thank you. to the getting back civil conversation is recognizing that the end of the day, there are individuals that, no matter what you say, will completely disregard the public record. you can literally put in front of them as stack -- let me tell you -- matter of fact, any of these historians on the table, you can lay out historic documents that explain these things or show these things, and i will tell you that the american civil war museum, we have the bulk of all of the and recordses,
regarding all of the monuments that went up on monument avenue as well as many of the historic records of the lee memorial association, united daughters of the confederacy, that they do not have, and the like. we have supportable archives. so to be able to go back and look at those documents, you begin to see, again, this sort of mix. we are not talking about what was even then a democratic process. it was a process of the powerful , and in some communities where there was no opportunity. i know we are running really short on time. a few more questions. this gentleman and then this gentleman. >> what is being done by the commission to recognize the totality of people's lives? i am thinking of lee after the war, as dr. robberson mentioned, and also maury, the pathfinder taught at theo naval academy, an academic or
you have to look at the totality of the pe. that is a very good question, and murray, unlike the monumentat line avenue, is not presented in uniform at all. in fact, with his monument, it does correct reflect a career where the confederacy is a footnote for murray. it is one of the footnotes. it is one of the things that he does. lee, jackson, ap hill, all of the others are in uniform. they are, in terms of looking at the whole of their lives and their work, that is not necessarily what is being honored in the course of the work, and again, when you look at the proceedings, it is about them as military leaders. long --you can, all day
in any museum, we have basically 150 250 words, and that particular panel will tell you what is going on. can hope for as you are talking about the individual as art, but the individual depicted, and the community's response over time as you have a very short period a time to figure that out, and i will say that that currently is not my job. my function on the monument of -- monument avenue commission is complete. i absolutely hear what you are it is going to be an interesting challenge to find that space. >> but shouldn't you also consider -- ms. coleman: yes, sir. >> your comments about the battle at liberty park in 1874 raises an interesting question that touches on the essence of this debate.
historiansry regarded lieutenant general james -- has the most accomplished tactical and strategic genius of the american civil war. he, as you know, was the militiar of the african and the metropolitan police of new orleans during that battle. he was then lost, wounded by a spent bullet, captured. he was acting under the authority of the grant administration, which he joined in 1868. the question is -- why has there never been a monument to general james long stream of the confederate army, and what does debate?l us about this ms. coleman: i think that tells you quite a bit about the debate. the individuals who were later known as the real adjusters, the
confederate general officers, etc., who would eventually support reconstruction and would support the black enfranchisement, you would find that for the most part there are no monuments to them and the cap the on of confederate memory. there just are not. so you kind of have to thank for bit, but i think it is telling. again, thank you all so much for your time and attention. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning inst >> you are watching coverage of a conference on civil war icons held earlier today, hosted by the shenandoah title field foundation. -- battlefield foundation. this is american history tv. without further ado, i would like to introduce our next speaker, mr. john coski.