Politics, United States

Civil War Monuments, Should We Take Them Down?

In Charlottesville, Virginia lies the statue of Civil War United States General, Robert E Lee. Lately, as seen on the news, there has been a commotion about this statute and whether or not it should be taken down for good since it is believed that the statute simply promotes slavery and racism. The finished statue; a fourteen foot sculpture, twenty-six foot with its pedestal, dedicated to the man in charge during the Civil War, was introduced into the world on May 21, 1924 during a Confederate reunion. Although it may have not been one of the finest moments for America, Lee is still a historical figure and the reason for building this statue was to honor and remember Lee’s accomplishments. Those in favor of taking down these monuments are indeed correct in doing so, but the statute does not have be be gone forever. The statue should be taken down along with other Confederate Civil War monuments to respect those who were and are being objectified because of what happened in 1861.

Car that drove into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville (CNN)

Due to recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia there have been recent controversies on whether or not monuments for Civil War “heroes” should be taken down. On August 11, 2017 a White Supremacist rally began at Emancipation Park and only a few hours after that, violence broke loose between protesters and counter-protesters. The protesters were fighting to have a statue of racist “icon” Robert E. Lee taken down. Things got violent very quickly when a group of Neo-Nazis started surrounding the statue in defence. James Alex Fields Jr. turned violence into murder by driving his car into a crowd of people killing one girl and injuring nineteen others. Fields was “charged with second-degree murder” (CNN) and is expected to go to trial soon. After what happened, the mayor of Charlottesville stated that it was an unnecessary act of “hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance” (ABC 7). What happened could have been prevented if only Civil War statues had been taken down. After the attack, Charlottesville is slowly but surely healing. Many citizens are extremely paranoid and cautious after the attacks, one woman wrote that one of the trains at the train station hit something or stopped too soon and everyone heard a loud bang and grabbed onto their loved ones. These acts of hatred rendered the people of Charlottesville to be programmed to think of the worst things that could happen.

The Civil War was the bloodiest war in American History. The conflict began because of the division between free and slave states not being able to reach some sort of compromise over slavery and so war broke out in 1861, which lasted until 1865. Today, many see Robert E. Lee as a racist “icon” since he became the General of Confederate forces in the war. Some historical documents show that Lee was a cruel figure with his slaves and encouraged his overseers to severely beat slaves captured after trying to escape. One slave said Lee was one of the meanest men she had ever met (News Press Now). 

Abraham Lincoln & Stephen Douglas political cartoon from the 1860 presidential campaign (Purdue)

Lee knew that slavery was “a moral & political evil” but he also wrote in the same letter that God would be the one responsible for emancipation and blacks were better off in the U.S. than Africa (New Press Now). The reason the Civil War started was because of the different ideology about slavery between the North and the South in the United States. Lee did not put into consideration of how the slave owners treated their “property” and these owners are also a factor in which how much freedom is given to those slaves.

Recent affairs in Charlottesville, Virginia have caused a series of debates on whether or not the state should have Civil War monuments taken down. Some want the statues to stay up because they’re a part of US history. Others want them taken down because most of them promote racist and un-American ideals. To solve this issue and make everyone happy, all the statues should be taken to a certain area -such as a closed park or museum with walls- and be on a protected display for those who actually care. This idea duplicates what is done in Russia. Muzeon Park of Arts located in Moscow, Russia is a green space that contains monuments of fallen Soviets murdered by the Communist government along side statutes of the leaders of the same Communist government like Joseph Stalin. Following Russia’s lead could appease both sides of the debate and give future generations an opportunity to view historical statues without having the statues memorialize the leaders of the Confederacy.


Article by Olivia Helbling and May Graellos

Works Cited

Almasy, Steve, et al. “Charlottesville Car Acciedent.” CNN, 15 Aug. 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/08/12/us/charlottesville-car-crash-suspect-idd/index.html. Accessed 14 Sept. 2017.

Astor, Maggie, et al. “A Guide to the Charlottesville Aftermath.” The New York Times, 13 Aug. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-virginia-overview.html?mcubz=3. Accessed 14 Sept. 2017.

Glaser, James. “What to Do with Confederate Statues.” UPI, 16 Aug. 2017, www.upi.com/Top_News/Voices/2017/08/16/What-to-do-with-Confederate-statues-See-what-Russia-did/6281502898569/. Accessed 14 Sept. 2017.

Lithwick, Dahlia. “How Charlottesville Is Coping, One Week Later.” Slate, 22 Aug. 2017, www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/how_charlottesville_is_coping_a_week_later.html. Accessed 14 Sept. 2017.

“Robert E. Lee.” Biography, 21 Aug. 2017, www.biography.com/people/robert-e-lee-9377163. Accessed 14 Sept. 2017.

“A Timeline of the Deadly Weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.” ABC 7, 14 Aug. 2017, abc7.com/a-timeline-of-events-in-charlottesville-virginia/2305769/. Accessed 14 Sept. 2017.

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