At Arlington Cemetery, A Confederate Monument to the South and Slavery Still StandsHistorians in the News
tags: memorials, Confederacy, Arlington Cemetery, public history
The cemetery’s superintendent, Charles “Ray” Alexander Jr., said in a statement that neither he nor the cemetery’s executive director, Karen Durham-Aguilera, has any authority over the memorial. He said the cemetery would follow the Pentagon’s orders. An Army spokeswoman said the military branch “is working with the Defense Department on guidance for display of divisive symbols” and “any review would include this memorial.” But President Trump has denounced the removal of Confederate memorials and vowed to veto this year’s proposed $740 billion defense bill if it includes an amendment to rename 10 bases named after Confederate generals.
Not even the descendants of the sculptor who made Arlington’s Confederate memorial — Moses Ezekiel, a Confederate soldier buried at the base of his artwork — say they believe the monument should remain. After The Washington Post published an article about the monument following the violence in Charlottesville, nearly two dozen members of the extended Ezekiel family sent a letter to The Post calling for its transfer to a museum “that makes clear its oppressive history.”
Micki McElya, author of a 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist book on the cemetery’s history, agrees the Confederate monument should be removed. In its place, she suggested panels that chronicle Section 16′s origins and explain the monument’s celebration of white supremacy.
“The monument is a very aggressive attempt to present a Lost Cause and pro-Confederate version of the Civil War,” McElya said. “The narrative is so toxic and so representative of the many facets of violence against black people and black histories in this country. The act of removing the monument would be the act of the nation saying this is a lie about the past and this lie about the past reinforces contemporary inequalities that don’t have a place in this field of honor.”
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