More than 60 per cent of Americans say that statues of Civil War figures associated with the defense of slavery should be left in place, a new poll has revealed.
Days after a violent rally by right-wing groups to protest removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, 62 per cent of people said the statues should remain as historical symbols.
The poll from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist offers a measure of support for President Donald Trump’s stance on the issue.
‘Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,’ he tweeted Wednesday.
Just 27 per cent of people said that the monuments should be removed from parks, roads and schools across the United States.
Days after a violent rally by right-wing groups to protest removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, 62 per cent of people said the statues should remain as historical symbols. Just 27 per cent of people said that the monuments should be removed. Pictured above, demonstrators protest for the against Confederate monuments across the country
The SPLC identified Confederate monuments in 31 states and the District of Columbia, with Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina having the most – at 96, 90 and 90, respectively
These are the locations as of Thursday where a Confederate monument has either been removed or there has been a proposal to remove the monument
And, in a striking breakdown, 44 per cent of African Americans agreed the statues should stay, against 40 percent who said they should be removed.
Located mostly in the southeastern United States, there are some 1,500 symbols of the pro-slavery Confederacy which fought and lost a war to secede from 1861-65.
An estimated 750,000 people, or more than two percent of the US population at the time, were killed in the conflict.
The monuments, as well as the names of many roads, schools, and public buildings, mostly celebrate Lee, the leader of the Confederate forces; Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy; and General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, one of Lee’s top commanders.
In the poll of 1,125 people nationwide, Republicans overwhelmingly supported keeping the statues in place, with only six per cent in favor of removing them.
But Democrats were almost evenly divided: 47 per cent favored pulling them down, while 44 per cent support leaving them in place for history’s sake.
The poll appeared to lend support to Trump’s controversial stance on the issue.
Moves to remove statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy have gained momentum since the Charlottesville violence with monuments coming down in Baltimore and other cities.
A statue of Jefferson Davis, second from left, president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865, is on display in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling for the removal of Confederate statues from the US Capitol as the contentious debate over the appropriateness of such memorials moves to the halls of Congress
Since Monday, officials in Baltimore and Gainesville, Florida, have taken down statues while another was torn from its plinth by protesters in Durham, North Carolina. Calls for more to be removed have grown louder.
This has created an additional headache for cities and spurred another debate: how to dispose of the statues once they are taken down.
Some have suggested museums, others putting them in Confederate cemeteries and one city councilman proposed using their metal to make likenesses of civil rights leaders.
‘Melting them down and using the materials to make monuments for Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, Harriet Tubman would be powerful!’ Baltimore city councilman Brandon Scott wrote on Twitter this week. The mayor’s office said that was unlikely.
The debate contrasts sharply with how Eastern Europe handled thousands of statues following the collapse of Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Often pulled down by angry mobs, some of the statues ended up in dumpsters and others in museums to teach people the evils of totalitarian regimes.
In Budapest, a for-profit park hosts about 40 statues of communist heroes such as Karl Marx.
A monument dedicated to soldiers of the Confederate States of America stands at Santa Ana Cemetery, in Santa Ana, California
In the US South, the debate still rages between those nostalgic for the past and those who view the monuments as painful reminders of slavery.
There are more than 700 Confederate statues in the United States according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, most of them created in the 1910s and 1920s, decades after the Civil War ended.
They were intended to reassert the power of white people, said Jonathan Leib, Chair of Political Science and Geography at Old Dominion University in Virginia.
In Birmingham, Alabama, Mayor William Bell ordered workers to hide a Confederate statue behind plywood boards, while the city challenges a state law banning the removal of such monuments.
But sympathies persist, as both lawmakers and citizens resist plans to remove them.
‘I absolutely disagree with this sanitization of history,’ Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, told WVHU radio on Tuesday.
For now, many of the removed statues gather dust in warehouses or, as in the case of New Orleans, sit disassembled in a city scrap yard, where two were found by local reporters.
In Baltimore, statues are now in storage, according to the mayor’s spokesman Anthony McCarthy, who said they will likely end up in a Confederate cemetery or a museum.
A statue of Confederate Gen Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson in Charleston, W. Va. Most of the 11 Southern states that seceded prior to and during the Civil War have rebel monuments on or near the grounds of their state Capitol buildings
Many city legislators have expressed interest in relocating statues to museums, where they might be viewed as historical artifacts and not rallying points for racism.
Anna Lopez Brosche, city council president in Jacksonville, Florida, encouraged the removal of Confederate statues from public property on Monday and proposed placing them where they will be ‘historically contextualized.’
In Lexington, Kentucky, Mayor Jim Gray has proposed removing statues from one city park, formerly the site of a slave auction block and whipping post.
Meanwhile, a statue removed in Gainesville, Florida, on Monday is being returned to a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected it in 1904.
The group, founded in 1894 by women descended from Confederate soldiers, put up many of the statues as part of their goal to display what they call ‘a truthful history’ of the Civil War and mark places ‘made historic by Confederate valor’.
Trump, echoing remarks he first made earlier this week, made it clear on Thursday that he opposed the campaign to remove statues.
‘Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,’ Trump said.
Employees work to relocate the Confederate monument, known by locals as Old Joe, near the corner of West University Avenue and South Main Street in Gainesville, Florida, on Monday
‘You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!’ he said.
‘Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!’ he said.
Lee and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson were Confederate generals while George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were among the Founding Fathers of the United States.
The Southern Poverty Law Center last year identified more than 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces, though some have been removed in recent days and weeks.
They include monuments and statues, flags, named schools and public works, many in honor of key figures such as Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis – while others memorialize lesser-known cult figures or an anonymous soldier meant to symbolize the average Confederate fighter.
The SPLC found 718 monuments and statues; 109 public schools named for Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis or other Confederate icons; 80 counties and cities named for Confederates; and 10 US military bases named for Confederates.
A protester kicks the toppled statue of a Confederate soldier after it was pulled down in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday
The report highlighted Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina as having far more monuments than others, with 96, 90 and 90, respectively.
Of the eight other states that seceded from the Union, Alabama had 48, Arkansas had 36, Florida had 25, Louisiana had 37, Mississippi had 48, South Carolina had 50, Tennessee had 43, and Texas had 66.
The center reported monuments in a total of 31 states and the District of Columbia. Most were located in the South, though states further afield such as Arizona, and even Massachusetts, harbored monuments – hosting two and one, respectively.
While the dedication of monuments peaked, according to the SPLC, in the early and mid-1900s, the organization’s research shows that – like in St. Cloud – monuments were still being erected well into the 21st century, and not only in the South.
Confederate memorials were erected in Iowa in 2005 and 2007; Oklahoma in 2004; Delaware in 2007; and Florida in 2007 and 2009.
Missouri also erected a statue of a Confederate general in 2009, a development celebrated by Confederate enthusiasts in neighboring Kentucky, as well.