On Wednesday night, the city of Memphis got rid of two Confederate statues, including a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The first of the statues to be removed was of Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader and a founder and “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan, followed by the statue of Davis.
As police surrounded the scene with lights flashing, a jubilant crowd sang farewell to the statues: “Na na na na, na na na na, hey, hey, goodbye.”
Memphis is fast approaching the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. With that somber anniversary hanging over their heads, Memphis politicians suddenly lit a fire under their desire to get rid of the reminders of the Confederacy.
But the problem was the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2016. That act prevented the removal of statues on public property without two-thirds of the board of the commission expressing their approval.
But facing the prospect of thousands of people coming to the city to celebrate MLK and finding Confederate statues there, the city worked around that law.
The kicker was the fact that statues “on public property” were affected by the law. On Wednesday, then, the city council let the mayor sell the parks to Memphis Greenspace Inc., a private nonprofit set up by Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner and others. Hours later, the statues, now on private property, were removed.
The president of the University of Texas at Austin has ordered the immediate removal of statues of Robert E. Lee and three other Confederate-era figures — Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg — from a main area of campus.
President Greg Fenves announced the statues’ fate Sunday night, and the removals should be complete by mid-morning Monday. A university spokesman says the area has been blocked off. Lee and Johnston were Confederate generals, Reagan was a Confederate postmaster and Hogg was the first native-born governor of Texas and the son of a Confederate general.
In a letter to the university community, Fenves connected the events with the decision to remove the statues now: “[T]he horrific displays of hatred at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville shocked and saddened the nation. These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.” …”The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history. 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.”
“We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus.”The statues of Lee, Johnston and Reagan will be added to the collection at the university’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History for “scholarly study,” Fenves wrote. The Hogg statue will be considered for relocation elsewhere on campus. In 2015, the university removed a statue of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis.
On Saturday, Duke University announced that it had removed a statue of Gen. Lee that was in the entry to the large chapel on its campus.
Statues dedicated to Confederate heroes were swiftly removed across Baltimore in the small hours of Wednesday morning, just days after violence broke out over the removal of a similar monument in neighboring Virginia.
Beginning soon after midnight on Wednesday, a crew, which included a large crane and a contingent of police officers, began making rounds of the city’s parks and public squares, tearing the monuments from their pedestals and carting them out of town.Small crowds gathered at each of the monuments and the mood was “celebratory,” said Baynard Woods, the editor at large of The Baltimore City Paper, who documented the removals on Twitter. “The police are being cheerful and encouraging people to take photos and selfies,” Mr. Woods said in an interview.
The statues were taken down by order of Mayor Catherine Pugh, after the City Council voted on Monday for their removal. The city had been studying the issue since 2015, when a mass shooting by a white supremacist at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., prompted a renewed debate across the South over removing Confederate monuments and battle flags from public spaces.