To the editor,
I’ve read a number of comments pertaining to the question, “Should the Confederate Memorial in the Covington Square stay or be relocated?” The overwhelming opinions voiced by those in favor of leaving the statue is that “the monument honors and remembers those who lost their lives in the Confederate War and that it represents the region’s history.”
General Robert E. Lee must have foreseen the divisiveness that Confederate monuments would create by saying when he was invited to attend a meeting to commemorate Confederate monuments: “I think it is wiser not to keep open the sores of war, but follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strive, and commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”
The County has another Confederate memorial, located in the Oxford Confederate Cemetery. Here the memorial towers over the graves of the fallen, and the inscription only reads: “Our Soldiers” where it is poignant in statement and appropriately placed.
The Covington Square memorial attempts to pay homage to the dead, but at the same time it’s inscription redefines, or white washes, history by relating an untrue narrative for the Civil War. The message etched on the Memorial states that the soldiers died for a “Sacred Cause” and the suffering of the women was for a “Holy Cause.”
This was how and still is today, the way the UDC has pushed the false reasons for the Civil War. Due to this concocted version being etched into the memorial, the statue is not just a tribute to those who suffered or died but also becomes a propaganda symbol for a white washed history to change the true causes of the war.
These confederate monuments were and are the public promotion of erroneous history thrust upon the American people in a concerted act to disseminate an untrue telling of the cause of the Civil War and how “good” slavery was for black people. In 1954, the UDC approved the textbook, Georgia History that gives this rendition of life as a slave in Georgia: “…The master often had barbecue or a picnic for his slaves. Then they had a great frolic. Even while working in the cotton fields they sang songs. The beat of the music and the richness of their voices made work seem light.” Another textbook from 1957, Government, Geography, in its chapter on slavery featured a very well-dressed African-American family on board a ship shaking hands with a white man, who is presumed the family’s new owner and it describes slavery as: “A feeling of strong affection between masters and slaves in a majority of Virginia homes…The house servants became almost as much a part of the planter’s family circle as its white members… The regard that the master and slaves had for each other made plantation life happy and prosperous. Life among the Negroes of Virginia in slavery times was generally happy. The Negroes went about in a cheerful manner making a living for themselves and for those for whom they worked…” This is not true history, this is deceptive and glossed-over history. This whitewashed telling about life in the South, brainwashes children of that time about the truth of American History. This is probably why so many people, who opt for the monument to remain front and center in the Square, identify it with such positive feelings. They have not been taught, or refuse to believe, the true cause of the Civil War.
The Georgia Archives clearly give proof that the cause for secession and subsequent war was slavery. The Secession Documents state: “For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate states with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property …” This is true history.
Alexander Stephens, who hailed from Georgia and was the VP of the Confederation, gave a speech at the Athenaeum in Savannah, GA on March 21, 1861, which indubitably explained why the southern states felt a need to secede. In the following excerpt he said, “… Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery–subordination to the superior race-is his natural and normal condition.” This is true history.
Long after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the facts show that African Americans continued to be oppressed and victimized. Ida B. Wells, African American journalist and anti-lynching crusader, documented a total of 400 lynching of black men, women and children in the years of 1892 and 1893, alone! In 1906, the year the statue was erected, Atlanta made world news as 10,000 white Atlantan males attacked and killed at least 2 dozen blacks during the Atlanta Riots and destroyed hundreds of black owned businesses and homes. In our own backyard, the Williams Plantation killing of 11 black “peons” brought Covington in the national news in 1921, and the 1946 Moore’s Ford Bridge killings, showed how many non-blacks felt entitled to treat blacks. In 1936, the UDC decided to run a very lengthy article justifying the Ku Klux Klan in their Southern Magazine. Today, we see the continuing effects of oppression and victimization of blacks in the racial profiling, police shooting of unarmed blacks and the over-representation of blacks in the prison system as compared to whites for same crimes/offenses. This is true history.
It is time to make a concerted effort to break this age long culture of treating non-whites as being second class citizens. That is why we cannot have as General E. Lee suggested, a symbol of divisiveness reflected by its inscription, in the center of our county. This is why the statue should be re-located to a place, where it rightfully and truly can honor the dead, and express homage to those who suffered: to the Confederate Cemetery in Covington.