The University of Texas has moved statues depicting Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston; John Reagan, who served as postmaster during the Civil War and former Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg, whose father was a Confederate brigadier general, from their previously central location on its Austin campus.
“Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism,” a statement from University president Greg Fenves said.
The Lee, Johnston and Reagan statues will be added to the collection at Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, the statement said. The statue of Hogg will be considered for placement elsewhere on campus.
Statues depicting CSA President Jefferson Davis and former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson were relocated in June 2015, after nine worshippers were shot to death in a Charleston, S.C. church.
The statues had been in the heart of campus in the shadow of the famous bell tower. A statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands near where the relocated statues had been.
“The University of Texas at Austin is a public educational and research institution, first and foremost. The historical and cultural significance of the Confederate statues on our campus — and the connections that individuals have with them — are severely compromised by what they symbolize,” Fenves’ statement said. “Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry.”
“The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history,” Fenves’ statement continued. “But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university’s core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres.”
(Incidentally, I took these photos of some of the statues when I was in Austin for a conference; they were located in a very shady spot and I took the photos on a very sunny day. So, they’re a little hard to make out).
The move follows efforts elsewhere to take down statues with Confederate ties following the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va.. The mayor of Baltimore had structures removed and the mayor of Lexington, Ky. says his town will do so as well.
A “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville clashed with counter protesters and Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a car plowed through a group of pedestrians. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, a failed military aspirant whose former high school teacher said he was “fascinated with Nazism” and “idolized Adolf Hitler,” was charged with second-degree murder and was denied bond.
The outrage sparked protest march in Atlanta and elsewhere. The Atlanta march traveled from Woodruff Park to Piedmont Park, where some damaged the Peace Monument, which is a 1911 sculpture meant to urge reconciliation, not venerate the Confederacy. It features an angel standing above a Confederate soldier, guiding him to lay down his weapon. The monument reflects a period of great transition in Georgia history.
When the Civil War broke out, members of an Atlanta militia called the Gate City Guard were among the first to take up arms against the North. Afterward, some survivors became part of what would eventually become the Georgia National Guard. Others, who felt they were too old to fight any longer, took up the cause for reconciliation.
“These guys realized a national healing needed to take place,” said sixth-generation Atlantan Thornton Kennedy, a history buff who keeps the three-volume set “The Chronicles of the Old Guard” on his bookshelf. “They organized a peace tour of the North, which is really remarkable. These were guys who fought in the Civil War, against Union troops. They would go meet with Union soldiers and began to repair those fissures the war created. It speaks to what we call the Atlanta spirit.”
Meanwhile, the amusement park chain Six Flags is now essentially One Flag (although the name hasn’t changed). The original Six Flags was founded in Texas, and the name reflects the flags that have officially flown over Texas: Mexico, Spain, France, The Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America and the United States of America. Six Flags Texas took down all the other flags amid the uproar following Charlottesville, and the Georgia property followed suit.