Thursday, February 08, 2018

‘A rock and a hard place’. (SAR) First meeting of Confederate monument contextualization committee in St. Augustine, Florida

Good article, great photo -- let the healing begin.  Our City has resisted demands to remove an 1879 Confederate monument.  Instead, we're going to contextualize it.  I agree.

‘A rock and a hard place’

Historian Susan Parker speaks during the City of St. Augustine Confederate Memorial Contextualization Advisory Committee’s first meeting on Wednesday at City Hall. [CHRISTINA KELSO/THE RECORD]

By Sheldon Gardner
Posted at 12:01 AM
Updated at 5:52 AM
St. Augustine Record

After months of meetings, hours of public debate and at least two protests about the city of St. Augustine’s Confederate memorial, the effort to flesh out Civil War history at the site moved ahead quietly on Wednesday.

About 10 people were in the audience at City Hall as the Confederate Memorial Contextualization Advisory Committee met for the first time. No protesters were seen at City Hall.

After deciding in October to keep the Confederate memorial in the Plaza de la Constitucion, city commissioners appointed the committee in January to bring a more complete history of the Civil War in St. Augustine to the memorial. The memorial lists 44 men who died serving the Confederacy.

All seven people on the committee attended Wednesday’s meeting: Flagler College history Professor J. Michael Butler, retired St. Johns County educator Sharyn Wilson Smith Coley, Flagler College adjunct history professor and former naval museum director Elizabeth Dove, Flagler College emeritus history Professor Thomas Graham, St. Johns County Recreation Supervisor Thomas Jackson, historian Susan Parker and Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center Director Regina Gayle Phillips.

The point of the first meeting was to lay out a framework for the committee’s effort, set meeting times and elect a chair and vice chair. Committee members chose Jackson as chair and Phillips as vice chair.

Jackson, giving a nod to the tension in the community over the monument, said his concern is that committee members do their jobs well.

“There’s no any one individual looking at getting any type of accolades from this committee because this committee is kind of one of those [that’s] between a rock and a hard place — because the rock is one crowd and the hard place is the other crowd,” he said.

The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the City Commission by May about how to add context to the memorial. The committee will meet at 3 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of each month at The Alcazar Room at St. Augustine City Hall. All their meeting materials and videos will be posted at

Wednesday’s meeting also provided committee members with a briefing on their ethical responsibilities and laws regarding public records and meetings.

Since the group is appointed by the commission, committee members can only meet at publicly noticed meetings and all the records related to their business are public record, Assistant City Attorney John Cary said.

Cary also said the city does not believe there is a problem with Parker serving on the committee, even though the city has hired her to write part of its Historic Preservation Master Plan.

The group started discussing how history could be added to the site.

Graham said the Plaza already looks like it has too many monuments, and he suggested the city could add a marker or markers to the base of the monument to blend in with the architecture.

He suggested adding several historical markers that cover topics such as St. Augustine men who fought for the Confederacy and the Union, slaves in St. Augustine, and information about the memorial such as the controversy that surrounded it even in the 1800s.

Questions also arose about how much history to cover with historical markers.

“Should we tie the monument, what it represented in the mid-20th century, to the civil rights movement that happened in the downtown Plaza?” Butler asked. “Symbolically it held very, very deep meaning for both African-Americans and for whites who gathered.”

″ ... In my opinion it is more important to address the monument when it was put up ... I wouldn’t focus so much on the mid-20th Century,” Parker said. “I think I’d be more concerned about interpreting it for people in the 21st Century.”

Coley added later, “This should be all inclusive for everyone who had to fight and for everyone who had to die, whether it’s green or polka-dot, we have to be all inclusive with this language, or we’re still not going to make anyone happy. So it has to be all inclusive.”

Getting public feedback is also part of the process, and City Clerk Darlene Galambos suggested the committee reach out to veterans groups and others, which was discussed by the commission.

The next meeting is expected to delve deeper into what words could be used for markers and how other communities have added context to their own monuments.

Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Rank 0
1. Very impressive, diverse, thoughtful, "fully woke" committee!
2. I agree with Flagler College History Professors Thomas Graham and Michael Butler. Words chosen to contextualize the 1879 Confederate monument must thoroughly explain the meaning of the monument, including its meaning during the Civil Rights era.
3. If people don't want to read it, they won't. I disagree with Dr. Susan Parker's notion that the explanation must be short.
4. Enough shallowness -- authenticity and historic accuracy is our goal.
5. We need a National Civil Rights Museum and a St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore. Let's tell the whole story, as Committee Chairman Thomas Jackson rightly said -- that must be our goal.
6. We need proper historic interpretation for Emancipation Park (now a parking lot).
7. Somewhere in St. Augustine, we need monuments for Dr. Robert Hayling, D.D.S., for Stetson Kennedy, and for the three Sisters of St. Joseph who were arrested on Governor's orders in 1916 for teaching at an African American school.
8. There's still a lot of healing needed here in St. Augustine.This committee is a good start.
9. Kudos to City Manager John Patrick Regan, P.E., City Clerk Darlene Galambos, et al. for their fine work.
10. NEWS FLASH: NO sign at the first meeting of peripatetic Rev. Ronald Rawls.Wonder why?
11. In 1964, Dr. King told civil rights "foot soldiers" here that if you "don't have love in your heart," not to join picket downtown
12. No sign of Rev. Rawls having EVER said that -- quite the opposite. Rawls brought in an SLPC-designated hate group, the "New Black Panther Party." (Look it up.)
13. The Monument committee will meet the first and third Wednesdays in February, March and April from 3-5 pm.
14. Attend, watch and share your ideas!« less

David Cash
  • David Cash
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The group that was selected is obviously qualified for this task. My problem with this whole contextulization effort is that it is a total waste of time and money.This monument has not been a problem for 150 years. Not until the Charlottesville protests did this cause rabel rousers like Rawls to fire up his hate base and mission to destroy our history. The monument doesn't need context. It is obvious to anyone that takes the time to read it to understand that it is a war memorial to local men who fought and died in the civil war. Rawls and his followers will not be appeased by a sign of explanation. They will not be happy with anything short of destruction of the monument. No one else either cares or is offended enough to take any action. So again a total waste of time and money.« less
  • 11 minutes ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
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Re: pitiful, peripatetic Rev. Ronald Rawls' hate-mongering, as LBJ said to Congress after Selma, "We SHALL overcome!" We're NOT going to remove the monument. We're going to explain it, as they did at Ole Miss and elsewhere. We need to tell ALL of our City's amazing history, with a St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore visitor center that tells the whole story of 12,000 years of history here. The heroic Menorcan story is not being told at all in our town. Native American history is neglected. And we need a National Civil Rights Museum, like the one in Memphis. We need to share our precious cultural heritage with the world. As Albert Camus would say, "If you don't help us do this, then who else in the world can help us do this?"
  • 7 minutes ago (edited recently)
john barnes
  • john barnes
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The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Dr. King.
  • 42 minutes ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Rank 0
@john barnes Amen, brother.

1 comment:

Warren Celli said...

What a hoot!

Contextualization — a Jim Crow gangster government euphemism for "lipstick on the pig."

Keep on pretending.