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Readers: Remove/Change The Confederate Memorial

July 1, 2015 Featured, Ferguson, Parks 9 Comments

First, let me apologize for the lack of posts Monday & Tuesday, our new fiber optic internet in our building went out last Saturday night. Our building’s IT provider didn’t get it fixed until after 4pm yesterday.

Sunday the poll software didn’t automatically close the poll at 8pm like I had set it to do. As a result, the poll stayed open until I noticed it Monday morning — closing it via my smartphone. That said, the percentages are roughly the same as they were at 8pm the night before:

Q: What should St. Louis do about the confederate memorial & street name in Forest Park?

  1. Change the street name & remove the memorial from Forest Park 20 [28.17%]
  2. TIE: 14 [19.72%]
    1. Do nothing
    2. Change the street name & supplement the memorial with additional information
  3. Change the street name, leave the memorial in Forest Park 11 [15.49%]
  4. Leave the street name, supplement the memorial with additional information 10 [14.08%]
  5. TIE: 1 [1.41%]
    1. Unsure/no answer
    2. Other: Change the street name and move the memorial History Museum grounds 
  6. Leave the street name, remove the memorial from Forest Park 0 [0%]

The “do nothing” vote was less than 20%, conversely those who wanted change of some type was more than 78%. This is a great opportunity for a public process to brainstorm possible solutions that’ll help us reach a consensus. Last week I visited the confederate memorial to check it out, I’ve lived here almost 25 years and didn’t know about it until recently.

I also asked landscape architect Eären Hummel for her thoughts, which were:

  • I think there should be a dialog, rather than a reactionary move. Further, I don’t think the monument should have been placed there to begin with.
  • City parks are meant to be places for all people to have a respite away from their busy lives, I think a park is no place for a confederate memorial, especially without the balance of a union memorial. That may sound “politically correct”. A civil rights garden could be created of the area, if the process is inclusive of all the players that civil rights – or lack there of – has affected. Whatever is done, I think it is important that it is not just a bandage, but true dialog.
  • As far as I can tell, there is no monument to the Union soldiers in St. Louis, nor a Civil Rights monument/memorial other than the “Naked Truth” sculpture at the Compton water tower. And that is really a monument to 3 German men, and not really for the cause of civil rights. Meaning there is not civil rights memorial significant to African-Americans.
  • The lack of other memorials in St. Louis, I think speaks volumes about the attitudes of the people of StL. Reinforcing the notion of white supremacy, everyday racism… It is the ongoing issues that were raised in Ferguson last summer, but have since fallen silent. Personally, I think focusing on removing flags or memorials skirts around the true issues and are only platitudes to quiet the cries of racism.
  • One thing that greatly bothers me about the monument, is the statement on it about the “battle to preserve the independence of the states…” The war was fought over slavery, as very clearly stated in the southern states on declarations. It was treason. The statement on the monument is revisionist history of the “lost cause”. That I find offensive and reprehensible. For that alone, I wish the monument was not there as it perpetuates erroneous “history”.
  • I would leave the language as is, but definitely have a panel next to it explaining that it is wrong, and why many people wanted to rewrite the history of the war.
  • It is a beautifully crafted monument by a notable sculptor.
  • I believe a civil rights garden could be sensitively incorporated into the park. There have been numerous additions to the park over the years.

I agree the memorial represents revisionist history and shouldn’t have been built. Let’s take a look…

The confederate memorial was dedicated in 1914, rededicated in 1964. Click image for more information
The 32 foot high confederate memorial was dedicated in 1914, rededicated in 1964. Click image for more information
The sculpture is by George Julian Zolnay,
The sculpture is by George Julian Zolnay, Click image to read about him on Wikipedia
The words on the south face
The words on the south face
I could't read the revisionist  text on the north face
I could’t read the revisionist text on the north face
Confederate Dr is in poor condition
Confederate Dr is in poor condition, the memorial is on the right

Renaming, or even removing, Confederate Dr is a given — relatively easy. The memorial is a much more complicated issue. The words are offensive, but it is a good reminder of St. Louis’ race problem. I think we should discuss the creation of a civil rights garden that would educate visitors on events from our history, for example:

There are many more that could be included in a civil rights garden, these could all be told.

— Steve Patterson



Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Izzy Goldsteinberg says:

    Maybe the civil rights garden could have a statue of Michael Brown robbing a store

  2. Chris Naffziger says:

    There actually is a Martin Luther King monument in Fountain Park. Also, there are several statues/monuments dedicated to Union victories and generals. There is a General Grant statue in the City Hall’s front yard, a Nathaniel Lyon memorial obelisk and equestrian statue in Lyon Park as well. Also, the Blair monument is a Union general in Forest Park.

  3. Fozzie says:

    You and others are the ones who epitomize revisionist history.

    To suggest this monument should never have been built is nonsense. When this monument was erected, the effects of the Civil War were fresh. It’s possible that older citizens had relatives who died in the war. Your implied racism is ignorant.

    You didn’t even KNOW about the memorial, and now you are outraged by it. I don’t know if the memorial appropriate or not, but this PC foolishness you exhibit about a “civil rights garden” is equally laughable.

  4. gmichaud says:

    The photos are helpful. Thanks, it appears the monument primarily is erected in memory of the confederate soldiers. The face of the monument has that carved underneath the main sculpture. So it is basically a monument remembering the dead.
    While the wording the reverse is about states independence and does not talk about the main force that caused the civil war, slavery I’m not sure it is enough to yank the statue out of the ground and move it. The wording could be something as simple as the erectors of the statue did not want to stain the memories of the dead by mentioning slavery, in other words they were embarrassed they supported slavery. Most of St Louis did not even know this statue existed. And if it stays it will probably fade into anonymity again.
    It was built to remember the dead, not as a ploy to forget why the civil war was fought.
    I feel like Rep Clay is way off base, he should have the grace to admit it. The statue is a 100 years old. This in a way goes back to the demolition issue you discuss elsewhere and how old St Louis is being destroyed by poor decision making. I’m not sure this doesn’t fit into that category.
    The odd thing is, if it is moved, it may become more visible to the public, having the opposite impact desired, in fact the only way to really get rid of it is to destroy it, Isis style.
    (Which gets back to what is the exact point of moving it? I guess you can always stick it in the woods in Jefferson County)
    Please understand, it is clear there is still a heavy strain of racism in America, the burning of black churches in the south over the last few weeks should be enough evidence for any doubters.
    There is without question real issues to deal with, but moving this statue in no way solves the problem and in many ways becomes is a distraction to finding real solutions.

    • John R says:

      It is all but certain that the memorial was erected to reassert the righteousness of the rebel cause as well as memorialize the dead…. the language of the plaque all but concedes that. And if you look at when the memorial was rededicated, what does that tell you? I don’t think it should be moved because it is a very real and painful part of our city’s deeply racist history. But there needs to be interpretation.

      And thank God for the Saint Louis German-Americans and other Unionists who saved Saint Louis and gained control of Missouri and the strategic Mississippi River, and in so doing saved the Union. RIP.

      • JZ71 says:

        “There needs to be interpretation”?! That’s what we have our public schools, public libraries, civil war reenactors, the KKK, the NAACP, PBS, Fox News, Wikipedia and Urban Review STL for! People that care will seek out answers, people that choose to be passively indoctrinated will be indoctrinated, and those that could care less will continue to remain clueless. Adding some passive (or active) PC “interpretation” will just draw more attention to a boring old chunk of stone that was all but forgotten until someone thought that the world needed more education and interpretation . . . be careful of what you ask for!

        • John R says:

          I don’t have a problem with drawing more attention to the memorial if there is proper interpretation; we can’t hide the fact that much of Saint Louis was a fetid swamp of racism and was for the treasonous Confederacy. The residue of that brutal history lingers to this day. Confronting it is good.

          • Andy says:

            St. Louis has its problems with racism and has throughout its history, but do not misrepresent the facts. St. Louis was a Union city, the governor who was pro-Confederacy even took over the police for this reason. St. Louis even found that a black man was a free man prior to the Civil War in the Dred Scott case.

          • John R says:

            Andy, it was a divided city that only because of the very large influx of German Americans in the years leading up to the Civil War had enough Unionists to gain control. But that does not negate the fact that there was a large amount of Confederate sympathizers — many were part of the early Camp Jackson Affair and then left to fight for the rebellion while many sympathizers remained.

            And of course it was a city where many people actually enslaved other human beings. The facts of the Dred Scott case revolved around the rather narrow but long-standing legal precedent of “once free, always free” and didn’t necessarily reflect anti-slavery views of the City as a whole…. the jury may have voted to give the Scotts their freedom on narrow grounds but other human beings continued to be sold on the courthouse steps and in other slave markets around town. (And of course today is a good reminder of the creation of the disgraceful Veiled Prophet.)

            It is important to understand this history.


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