Duke University takes down statue of Lee

What does the Confederacy mean in modern America

TC: What was your initial reaction to the removal of the statue?

Duke University on Saturday announced that it had removed a statue of Robert E. Lee from the entrance to the university chapel. We have to understand where figures like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson fit into the fabric of our country. By comparison, 418,000 Americans died during World War II. All told, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified about 1,503 items as of 2016.

"Two distinct periods saw a significant rise in the dedication of monuments and other symbols", a report from the SPLC reads.

Other visitors to the nation's capital were more wary of what Confederate statues contribute to society.

But University of North Carolina's W Fitzhugh Brundage pointed to a tipping point in recent years.

I'm not sure how we move on from Charlottesville and other incidents of hate when we have a president who can't seem to condemn white supremacists without entertaining some "both sides" nonsense. Once a monument is gone, it is unlikely to engender more discussion.

Since Reconstruction, Confederate sympathizers have been about the business of constructing a competing narrative about the Civil War built on "alternative facts" - otherwise known as lies.

Prof Brundage cited an eloquent speech by New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu which influenced many other councils to remove their Confederate monuments.

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"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our lovely statues and monuments", he wrote. We honor people like Thomas Jefferson because of the great things they did and the obstacles they fought against. Days later, hundreds marched through Durham in a largely peaceful demonstration against racism before an impromptu rally at the stone pedestal where the statue stood. Subsequently, it became a burial ground for Union dead and, shortly after, the official central military cemetery of the United States. They weren't there just to defend a piece of bronze.

There are now 109 schools named for Robert E Lee, including 27 where black students outnumber their white classmates. In Birmingham, Alabama, a 52-foot-tall obelisk honoring Confederate soldiers and sailors was covered by wooden panels at the mayor's order.

White nationalist leader Richard Spencer " a UVA grad who was one of the most high-profile speakers lined up for the rally " echoed Ayers' perspective. "This week, it is Robert E. Lee and, this week, Stonewall Jackson". "For me it's less about whether they come down or not, and more about what the debate is stimulating". It was this decision that led to the violence that occurred over the weekend. "We don't need that in Baltimore".

Only 27 percent said they should be removed, and 11 percent said they were unsure. They know that Lee and Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest and P.G.T. Beauregard fought to preserve an institution that kept black men and women in bondage - never paid for their labor, whipped and beaten at the whim of their masters, their children and spouses sold off for profit.

But Lee was himself a slaveholder, arguing "the painful discipline (black people) are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race". "And so for the sake of public safety, public reassurance, to magnify Heather's voice, and to repudiate the pure evil that visited us here, I am calling today for the removal of these Confederate statues from downtown Charlottesville".

"You put up monuments to honour a person or cause and you take them down when you think that person or cause should no longer be honoured", said Phil Wilayto, founding member of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality.

Instead a mob gathered outside the County Courthouse on Monday and tore down the statue themselves.

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