Friday evening the Confederate Memorial that resided in Minden’s Jacqueline Park on South Broadway was quietly taken down by a group of historic preservationists and a local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy.
The statue that had occupied the space in the park since it was erected on Robert. E. Lee’s birthday in January 1933 where there was a reported crowd of 2000 present people for its unveiling.
For several years plans to remove it had been discussed and according to members of the United Daughters of Confederacy, the owners of the statue, the time for removal was now.
However, they didn’t decide to remove the statue due to it potentially being offensive to over half of Minden’s local population. Rather, it was to prevent the possibility of malicious vandalism to the monument. They stated the statue will be held in safekeeping until it can be located to a final safe resting place.
In a recent statement addressing the growing concerns across the country over confederate monuments, The United Daughters of the Confederacy stated that they “appreciate these feelings,” understand that the statues can be seen as “divisive,” and are “grieved that certain hate groups have taken the Confederate flag and other symbols as their own.” But they are also saddened that some people find anything connected with the Confederacy to be offensive, and wish for these monuments to be able to stay in place.
An abridged version of the statement reads, “To some, these memorial statues and markers are viewed as divisive and thus unworthy of being allowed to remain in public places. To others, they simply represent a memorial to our forefathers who fought bravely during four years of war.
The (UDC) totally denounces any individual or group that promotes racial divisiveness or white supremacy. And we call on these people to cease using Confederate symbols for their abhorrent and reprehensible purposes.
We are saddened that some people find anything connected with the Confederacy to be offensive.
It is our sincere wish that our great nation and its citizens will continue to let its fellow Americans, the descendants of Confederate soldiers, honor the memory of their ancestors.” The entire statement can be found on the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s website.
Since the UDC and others may be confused as to why people might deem Confederate monuments to be offensive, local community leader and former pastor of St. Rest Baptist Church Rev. Benjamin J. Martin offered his perspective on why monuments like these were put up and what it meant as a African-American to have seen the statue standing until now.
“Many of the monuments were put in in the 60’s because of the Civil Rights Movement. There were some that were put in earlier on, but all of them had to do with reminding black folk that they were not equal. That was the whole purpose,” said Martin.
“The whole purpose of their erection was, in a sense, an intimidation of black folk. To say no, you’re not going to get equality, no you’re not going to integrate, no this is not going to happen.”
“And all the white washing that has been done, saying that the war wasn’t about slavery. The war was about salvery.”
Noted was the “Cornerstone Speech” given by Vice-President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, weeks before the start of the Civil War, where he states, “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”
Martin then referenced a quote from Robert E. Lee, who when invited to a meeting of Union and Confederate officers to mark the placing of a memorial honoring those who took part in the battle of Gettysburg, returned a letter declining the invitation, stating, “I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”
“To me, it’s not a heritage thing when you’re glorifying what you did to me and my ancestors, or glorifying the people who did it. You’re telling me I should forget about it, but you want monuments to memorialize it. That’s a contradiction,” said Martin.
“If you’re so proud of your history, tell the truth about it. If you have to lie about it, then you aren’t proud of it, plain and simple.”
When asked about what it meant to know that the memorial is now gone, Martin said, “It’s a step forward. It says that at least some folk are ready to turn loose of some of this. I’m told get over it, turn it loose, but you won’t turn it loose. So it’s a symbol that at least some folk are ready to turn some of this loose.”