Monuments commemorating Confederacy persist in Alabama
Alabama law prohibits removal of monuments, keeping them in place
A postcard from the 1950s or 60s depicting the Confederate Memorial at the north end of the Alabama State Capitol. Work on the monument began in 1886 and was completed in 1898. (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
About 48 memorials honoring the Confederacy were removed in 2022, according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
However, the report noted that many southern states, including Alabama, make it a crime to remove the monuments, most of which went up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to celebrate white supremacy.
“This is not what democracy looks like,” said Susan Corke, director of the Intelligence Project for SPLC. “It is worth noting that these regressive preservation laws were enacted between 2000 and 2021 — more than 135 years after the Civil War was lost — to keep false heroes on a pedestal. But Americans recognize these symbols represent hate instead of heritage and do not tell our entire, shared history,”
Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act, passed in 2017, prohibits the removal of monuments located on public property that are at least 40 years old. Those that are between 20-40 years old require permission from the Committee on Alabama Monument Protection.
According to the report, Alabama has 175 symbols dedicated to the Confederacy. 58 are roadway names. 56 are monuments.
There have been 15 Confederate icons that have been removed from the state, including 8 monuments.
The SPLC report said there are 741 roads, 723 monuments, 201 schools and 51 buildings.
The memorials are not limited to southern states that were once part of the Confederacy. There are 44 that are in the states that stayed loyal to the Union and Washington DC. Another 102 are in border states, and 30 are located in states that were territories during the Civil War.
Most of the memorials do not celebrate specific people, but those that do are dedicated to a handful of people who were part of the Confederacy. Among the most popular is Gen. Robert E. Lee who has 235 in his name. That is followed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and finally Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
The U.S. Department of Defense earlier this year began the process of renaming bases named for Confederates.
“As the military works to remove all Confederate iconography by the Naming Commission’s January 2024 deadline, the SPLC will continue to support and encourage local activists who are challenging this age-old propaganda campaign,” Corke said in the release. “We can achieve racial justice by creating public spaces free of malice that we all can enjoy and be proud of.”
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