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Civil rights leaders want six Confederate memorials in Arizona removed

PHOENIX – Local civil rights and faith leaders are pushing for the removal of six Confederate memorials in Arizona, calling them symbols of terrorism and bigotry.

“We can’t go through our daily lives honoring symbols of hate, symbols of separation, symbols of segregation designed to tear us apart and deepen our wounds,” said Rep. Reginald Bolding.

Leaders of local NAACP chapters and Black Lives Matter Phoenix said taxpayer dollars should not be spent to maintain the memorials, including one on the grounds of the state Capitol.

The group, including local clergy, asked Gov. Doug Ducey to lead the removal. Ducey’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Bolding, a Democrat who represents parts of the southeast Valley and downtown Phoenix, said the 2015 shooting deaths of nine people at a historically black church in Charleston is a sign that celebration of the Confederacy has no place in a modern, free society.

Roy Tatum Jr., president of the East Valley NAACP, said memorials to Confederate leaders and soldiers are a misguided symbol of commemoration.

“They were the terrorists of their day,” he said. “They were enslavers. They were secessionists. They were segregationists. They were haters, racial bigots. Many of them lynched, robbed, raped, killed many African-Americans and also abolitionist sympathizers.”

Robert Wilbanks, a historian and genealogist, said that 80 to 85 percent of Confederate soldiers came from families who didn’t own slaves. Wilbanks said keeping the memorials helps to acknowledge a history the nation does not want to repeat.

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“Having something to remember so as not to erase it completely from our historical consciousness as a country is my opposition,” Wilbanks said.

He acknowledged that white supremacists sometimes use the symbol of the Confederacy to promote hate crimes and hate speech but said most contemporary meanings of Confederate symbols remain important for states’ rights.

In recent weeks, New Orleans dismantled four Confederate monuments in a move hailed by those who said they symbolized hate and criticized by those who said the changes erased history.

The Baltimore mayor also is considering removing the city’s Confederate monuments.

The Arizona group wants six memorials removed immediately:

  • Memorial to Arizona Confederate troops, Arizona State Capitol grounds, Phoenix — erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1961
  • Arizona Confederate Veterans Monument, Greenwood Memory Lawn Cemetery, Phoenix — erected by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, 1999
  • Confederate Memorial in the Historical Soldiers section, Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sierra Vista — erected in 2010 to honor Confederate troops who later served in the U.S. Army during the Indian wars and were interred in the cemetery
  • Battle of Picacho Pass historical marker, Picacho Peak State Park — erected by Children of the Confederacy United Daughters of the Confederacy and Arizona Historical Society, 1984 ("Dedicated to those Confederate frontiersmen who occupied Arizona Territory, C.S.A.")
  • Graves of the only four Confederate soldiers killed in Arizona (in battle with Apaches), Dragoon Springs, east of Tucson — site maintained by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the Coronado National Forest
  • Jefferson Davis Highway marker, U.S. Highway 60 at Peralta Road, Apache Junction
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2 comments on this story

Jun 7, 2017, 2:09 pm
-1 +2

I’d like to add one more thought, if I may…

With the Civil War, and a plethora of other issues, there is an unfortunate tendency of the masses to pass judgement on the long-dead based on the times we live in now. That is unfair, and really unrealistic. If you feel the need to judge someone, judge them against the time that they lived in…not the time that you’re living in.

Jun 7, 2017, 10:18 am
-0 +2

This region was Confederacy during the war. It was also Union. The truth is that the people living here at the time would have pledged their allegiance to a troupe of circus clowns if they thought the clowns could defend them from the Apaches.

This was the ass-end of the war. Wilbanks correctly points out that most Confederate troops were not from slave owning families. When you look at Confederate troops that were sent out this far west, that number probably reaches 100% not from slave-owning families. The desert frontier wasn’t exactly a prime assignment in the Confederate armies, and no one with any influence would have been assigned out this way.

Slavery was one cause of the Civil War, but it was far from the only cause of it. Most Confederate soldiers didn’t come from slave owning families, most Federal soldiers didn’t give a shit about black people, and racism hardly stopped at Maryland’s northern border. Even Lincoln himself said that if he could preserve the Union without freeing a single slave he would do it. For the first two years of the war, for the Union anyway, it wasn’t about freeing slaves. Lincoln only wrote the Emancipation Proclamation because he was losing public support for the war, which was going very badly for the Union at that time.

Those facts I just gave you, among several others, are disregarded today because they’re not trendy. People just want to say it was about slavery and that’s it because it makes their understanding of that war fit neatly in to a little box. It is grossly disrespectful to all Civil War veterans to oversimplify what is undoubtedly the most complex war in our nation’s history.

A dearly departed friend of mine once said that old men make war, and send young men to fight them. He was so right about that. The war came about because of several failures on the part of our elected officials at many levels, including Lincoln himself. You want to place blame for the war, place it where it belongs…on the old men who made it, not the young men who fought it.

It was called the “Civil War” for a reason. the Southern people are our people. Anyone who served on either side with honor is a patriot. They all answered the call of their home to serve. They don’t deserve to be disrespected and to have history re-written like this, and they certainly don’t deserved to be insulted by being labeled as “terrorists”.

You want to take Davis’ name off of US 60, fine. I can live with that. The others are dedicated to those men who answered the call to serve and did their jobs. Leave those alone.

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Chris Benincaso/Cronkite News

Roy Tatum Jr., president of the East Valley NAACP, said Confederate memorials mark an era of terrorism and hate. Civil rights and faith leaders asked for six memorials in Arizona to be removed.