By Jacqueline Havelka
The names are Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and the like.
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They played huge roles in America's history and have been memorialized for the generations with statuary.
But now, leftists have decided to establish a litmus test for those the nation chooses to honor, concluding these individuals failed to measure up.
The statues must go, they insist.
The spotlight recently centered on the former capitol of the Confederate states, Richmond, Virginia.
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In April 1865, Confederate soldiers retreated from Richmond as Gen. Ulysses Grant and his soldiers approached. As they left, they torched select buildings, but the fire burned out of control and destroyed the city. A week later, Lee surrendered to Grant, and the Civil War came to an end.
Richmond's city council now is deliberating the fate of statues to Confederate leaders that now line the city's historic Monument Avenue, including Lee, Davis and Jackson, as well as Arthur Ashe, a black tennis star and civil-rights activist.
More than 100 people appeared at the meeting to demand their removal.
For many, it seems, the monuments are a message that the Southern cause was justified.
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Several citizens spoke passionately, condemning the statues as "racist symbols of white supremacy and bigotry."
Removal, they said, would "address the ills of yesterday."
"These men weren't heroes," city resident Stacy Lovelace claimed. "They betrayed our nation. They weren't fighting for our homeland, they were fighting for slavery."
Other residents argued recognizing and honoring those who had different opinions across the generations is not wrong.
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They described true diversity as the ability to tolerate and accept very different people with very different ideas.
"I'm sorry, but if everybody took something down that offended them, we wouldn't have any monuments or anything to look back on as far as our history," said one city resident.
Others want the statues preserved for their sheer artistry. Still others want the city leaders to focus on more pressing issues such as poverty and crime.
Retired Army Sgt. Maj. James S. Haynes, Jr. put it bluntly, "The city has many fish to fry besides dead men on dead horses."
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney originally supported the idea of leaving the statues in place and adding historically accurate context.
He then changed his mind and formed the Monument Avenue Commission to determine the statues' fate.
Like many cities, Richmond is struggling to determine what to do with the statues.
On one hand, the commission understands what the monuments represent, but it looks to cities such as Baltimore and New Orleans as examples. Statues came down in those cities.
Mostly, people just want an honest accounting of history, asserts University of Richmond history professor Julian Hayter. He notes a Virginia state mandate still directs schools to teach that the Civil War was fought over "preservation of Southern heritage" and not over slavery.
Hayter sees the statues as a way to be historically honest. He also says that some of the 75 million descendants of Confederate veterans alive today must come to terms with their history.
Like Richmond, many cities around the nation are having thoughtful and constructive conversations about statues. Proponents of removal contend the statues were dedicated during the early 1900s or at the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s as a way to "keep blacks in their place."
Some cities like Annapolis, Maryland, removed statues as a public safety measure after the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, that developed when supporters of heritage statues holding a permitted rally clashed with violent leftists.
A statue of Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney stood at the state house for nearly 150 years but was removed because Taney wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision ruling blacks could not be U.S. citizens.
Universities are grappling with the statue issue as well.
In Texas, two public institutions took very different approaches. The University of Texas removed three long-standing Confederate statues in the middle of the night and relocated them to the on-campus Briscoe Center for American History.
University President Greg Fenves said the statues of Robert E. Lee and others represent white supremacy and neo-Nazism and "run counter to the university's core values."
He said, "We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus."
One statue was of John Reagan, Confederate postmaster general. A fourth statue of former Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg will likely be removed. Hogg was alive during the Civil War, but was just a boy, too young to serve. Two years earlier, Fenves ordered the removal of a Jefferson Davis statue, prompted by the mass shooting by a neo-Nazi in a black Charleston, South Carolina, church.
In contrast, Texas A&M University officials decided that the campus statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross would remain. Ross was a Civil War general and governor of Texas, and is revered as a former Texas A&M president.
Texas A&M President Michael K. Young and Chancellor John Sharp said the statue on campus has nothing to do with the Confederacy. It is strictly meant to honor Ross in his role as the university's president.
Their statement said: "Without Sul Ross, neither Texas A&M University nor Prairie View A&M University would likely exist today. Anyone who knows the true history of Lawrence Sullivan Ross would never ask his statue to be removed."
Prairie View A&M is part of the university's system. It is a predominantly black school with 84 percent African-American students. Texas A&M is currently reviewing other campus historical items to ensure consistency with the university's core values.
Some private groups are stepping in to save statues, including a chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which paid to remove a Gainesville, Florida, monument known as "Old Joe."
The group moved the statue from its 113-year-old spot downtown to a private cemetery outside the city.
Here is the University of Texas removing Confederate statutes:
And vandals damaged a Columbus statue in Yonkers:
Here protesters topple a memorial statue honoring Confederate soldiers:
Antifa members deface a "peace" statue in Atlanta, mistakenly thinking it's a Confederate memorial:
And Baltimore removed Confederate statues overnight:
Other towns are asking for statues, and they're not always Confederate.
The predominantly Italian-American Long Island towns of Oyster Bay and Massapequa want the discarded statues of Christopher Columbus. They desire to preserve the Italian heritage the 15th-century explorer represents to them.
"What we're doing today sends a strong message that the public is tired of these attempts to remove or deface statues of Christopher Columbus. We just can't sit idly by and allow this to go on unchallenged any longer," said town supervisor Joseph Saladino.
He plans to place the statues in his town center and ensures that private groups rather than town money are paying for the effort.
Far away in The Woodlands, Texas, another town leader had a similar idea.
Gordy Bunch, noting his 43-year-old town doesn't have much history, wanted to bring some statues to a new fine arts center. Bunch believes the statues are a way to educate the public on the horrible history of the Civil War and slavery.
Bunch was promptly shouted down by local residents and was forced to make a public apology for the suggestion.
There are those who say history should remain history and politicizing it helps no one.
Conner Jones of the University of Houston noted: "We have reached a point in our national debate where memorials to our history are in conflict with the popular culture, and are linked with fringe ideology. It seems that many people have lost the ability to separate historical significance and the hateful rhetoric that is coming from many sides of the debate today.
"I fear that, like other aspects of the social justice movement, removing or dismantling monuments from the past is leading us down a dangerous path, where any reference to the past that doesn't line up perfectly with our moral views of the moment will be shunned from memory and labeled as evil. It is typical of our current political climate.
"Instead of looking to promote better awareness on the topic, the goal is to stifle debate and clear away what is disliked. This can only happen if we let it. It's a sad reality that these modern white supremacists and neo-Nazis – with their vile hatred and disgusting ideology – have been able to co-opt monuments to men who lived and died long before Nazism was even a part of the world. We shouldn't allow them to hijack history like this. Hate groups, no matter the ideology, should not be given the credibility they are looking for."
Much of the opposition to the historic monuments in coming from the groups known collectively as antifa, for anti-fascist.
They want to eliminate any voice but those that follow their own politically correct agenda.
They also protest the amassing of wealth by corporations and elites, and they use radical and violent tactics to get their point across.
According to the Daily Caller, a Philadelphia group is organizing a Nov. 4 "day of violent revolution."
There are concerns it will lead to armed conflict.
Among the statue fights:
- Maryland: Annapolis removed a Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney statue, Baltimore removed four Confederate statues, including one honoring Confederate women.
- Texas: Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston have all removed statues. University of Texas removed statues of three Confederate figureheads. Dallas removed Robert E. Lee statue and citizens petition to rename park after 46-year-old R&B singer Erykah Badu. San Antonio city council removed statue from Travis Park.
- Florida: Bradenton removed obelisk monument honoring fallen Confederate soldiers. Daytona Beach removed three statues. Gainesville chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for statue to be moved to a private location for preservation of history. Orlando moves "Johnny Reb" statue to Greenwood Cemetery. St. Petersburg removed Confederate bronze marker honoring the Stonewall Jackson Highway.
- New York: Brooklyn removed Episcopal church plaque honoring Robert E. Lee. Governor also asked Army to change name of fort. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is reviewing all city public art. Bronx Community College removes Lee and Jackson busts from its Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
- North Carolina: Durham removed statue that was toppled by rioting students, who were later charged with felonies. Duke University removed statue at chapel entrance after it was vandalized.
- Ohio: Franklin removed a Lee statue. Worthington removed a historic marker from a Confederate general's home.
- Montana: Helena removed Confederate statue from public park and stored it in a city warehouse.
- Missouri: Kansas City boxed up a monument that will later be removed. St. Louis' Civil War Museum removed a 32-foot granite and bronze monument from Forest Park and will move it to the museum, a battlefield or cemetery.
- California: Los Angeles removed Confederate veterans statue from cemetery after protests. It's in storage. San Diego removed Jefferson Davis plaque from Horton Plaza Park.
- Kentucky: Louisville removed statue from the University of Louisville campus after a protracted legal battle. The statue is in Brandenburg, Kentucky, for the town's annual Civil War reenactments.Wisconsin: Madison plaque was removed from cemetery amid city leader pleas to not honor the Civil War because it was an act of treason.
- Tennessee: Nashville's famous Ryman Auditorium moved a sign honoring Confederate veterans to its museum exhibit.
- Louisiana: New Orleans removed four monuments praising Reconstruction after city council declared them a public nuisance.
- Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial will be updated to show his status as a founding father as well as a slaveholder. Sen. Cory Booker plans a bill to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol Building. The National Cathedral removed two stained-glass windows depicting Confederate generals.