The confederate flag seems to be falling surprisingly easily now. And the spirit of the moment is spreading to other icons of the Civil War, seen now through a different lens cast in the events of Charleston.
But where does the nation go next, and how far will it go, in erasing the public markers of slavery 150 years after the end of the Civil War?
The clarity of the confederate battle flag was one thing. It was visible in photos of the man accused of killing 9 African-Americans at prayer in a Charleston church. It remained flying briskly, seemingly defiantly, atop its flagpole at the South Carolina state capitol while the state and federal flags were at half staff in mourning.
It gets harder step by step to know now where to draw the line.
There’s a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a confederate general and early leader of the Klan. There are the U.S. Army bases named for other confederate generals. There are statues of Confederacy president Jefferson Davis and his “presidential” library. There are the schools named for Gen. Robert E. Lee. And finally there are the slave owning Founding Fathers.
Will some go? All? Which ones?
“There is no end to it,” said former Georgia congressman Ben Lewis Jones, now chairman of Heritage Operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “Cultural cleansing … That’s the name for removing history that is not liked.”
Since the Charleston shootings, he said, the number of requests to take down confederate flags and other objects has increased exponentially.
Some scholars worry that the moves will make it easier to forgot the offenses of slavery and those who fought for it.
“They are hiding the history,” said Sam Fulwood, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. “”It makes it easier for people to pretend it didn’t happen.”
He said communities should erect more statues named after other people such as civil rights leaders instead of taking down the ones named after objectionable people.
Others want to change course, saying the country has been honoring the Confederacy, not just remembering it.
“We should stop honoring the Confederacy,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Here are some of the other ways the country honors the confederacy or slave owners, and some of the moves already underway to change that:
– Nathan Bedford Forrest, the confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
In Tennessee, some Democrats and the chairman of the state Republican Party this week urged removing a bust of Forrest from an honored spot in the state capitol.
“Symbols of hate should not be promoted by government. South Carolina should remove the Confederate battle flag from its Capitol, and Tennessee should remove the bust of Forrest inside our Capitol,” Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., told the Nashville Tennessean.
Also in Tennessee, Memphis lawmakers in 2013 decided to change the names of three parks that honored the confederacy, including Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, Jefferson Davis Park and Confederate Park. They acted before state lawmakers could move to prohibit such a change away from the confederate names.
In Alabama, there’s a memorial to Forrest in a cemetery in Selma.
The bust has been controversial ever since it was approved in 2000, especially given Selma’s role as the site of an historic march for civil rights in the 1960s. It was placed first in a Confederate Museum, vandalized three times, moved to the cemetery, then stolen. It was replaced several weeks ago atop a 7-foot memorial
“This monument stands as a testament of our perpetual devotion and respect for Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest CSA 1821-1877, one of the South’s finest heroes,” it says.
– Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America
In Kentucky, Republicans and Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said this week that a statue of Davis should be removed from the rotunda of the state Capitol in Frankfort and moved to a museum.
In Texas, students at the University of Texas at Austin this week demanded the removal of a statue of Davis for his support of slavery and the war. The statue was recently vandalized, spray painted with the words, “Black lives matter,” and “Bump all the Chumps.”
In Mississippi, Davis’s history is preserved at The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in Biloxi.
Davis’s widow sold the property to the Sons of Confederate Veterans with two stipulations, that it be a memorial to Davis and the confederacy and that the grounds include a home for Confederate veterans or their widows – which lasted until the last widows moved out in 1957.
– Gen. Robert E. Lee
Lee’s name is ubiquitous, on elementary schools, high schools, Washington and Lee University in Virginia.
In Louisiana, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is proposing taking down a statue of Lee, and renaming a traffic circle named for him.
In California, a state lawmaker this week asked that San Diego’s school district change the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School.
– The U.S. Army
The Army, which defeated the Confederacy, has 10 posts named for officers of the Confederacy, including Camp Beauregard, La.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Bragg, N.C.,; Fort Gordon, Ga.,; Fort A.P. Hill, Va.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lee, Va.; Fort Pickett, Va.; Fort Polk, La.; and Fort Rucker, Ala.
Among those honored Lt. Gen. John Brown Gordon, who was believed to have been in Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.
“It shouldn’t be surprising,” wrote Mark Thompson of Time this week. “Both the Army and the South are tradition-bound entities that revere their past. Each of the posts was named for a Confederate officer long after the Civil War, including many in the first half of the 20th Century when the U.S. military was rushing to open training posts for both world wars.”
- The U.S. Flag
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on Wednesday proposed taking down the U.S. flag. “We need to put the American flag down because we’ve caught as much hell under that as the Confederate flag,” he said in Washington.
– The Founding Fathers.
Many were slave owners, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
The monuments to them are many, from the $1 and $2 bills, up to the very name of the nation’s capital.