Tuesday, July 10, 2018

City Commission Approves Confederate Monument Contextualization, Rejects Bilateral Symbiotic Snowflakes

1. St. Augustine City Commission rightly approved 4-1 on July 9, 2018 the recommendation of the first biracial committee in our City's history.
2. Commissioners wisely chose last year NOT to remove the monument, appointed a superb committee, and now has heeded their reasoned, documented and scholarly recommendations for contextualization.
3. Commissioners wisely rejected the demands of far-left and far-right extremist hater-racists like Rev. Ronald Rawls, Jr. of Gainesville (who wanted to remove the monument), and Doug Russo (a chauvinistic slavery defender who wanted to do exactly nothing). Rawls and Russo are bilateral symbiotic snowflakes -- Rawls had Russo speak at St. Paul A.M.E. hate rally in August 2017, desecrating the historic church where MLK spoke. The two extremists feed off each other. At the July 9 , 2018 meeting, Rawls spoke after Russo did, and Rawls joked that he wanted to yield his time for Russo to keep on talking.
4. Dr. Robert S. Hayling, D.D.S. and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud. In 1963, they asked for a Biracial Committee. We finally got one 55 years later -- our Confederate Monument Contextualization Advisory Committee. Wonderful job -- I attended all ten (10) of their meetings gavel-to-gavel.
5. As RFK's Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Burke Marshall, said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall catch hell from both sides."
6. Proud of our City for doing the right thing.
7. Three cheers for democracy, for the seven Committee members, and for all of the blessed peacemakers. Yes we can!

Adding context …

The Confederate Memorial Contextualization Advisory Committee recommendation is to add a plaque to each four sides of the memorial that would provide brief details about the monument, about St. Augustine during the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, about men from the city fighting on both sides of the war, and about how the monument is perceived differently by people. Below is the proposed wording for each of the plaques.

North Plaque: St. Augustine during the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation

FREEDOM: Our nation’s Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865 between the Confederate States of America and the United States of America. Battles did not come to St. Augustine, but Union troops occupied the city in March 1862. They remained through the end of the war and Reconstruction.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation decreed that on January 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves within any State ... in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The Proclamation formalized the freedoms that enslaved people had claimed for themselves since the arrival of Union troops. On New Year’s Day, 1864, the Proclamation’s first anniversary was celebrated in this Plaza, where the Confederate Monument would later stand.

The Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution brought new possibilities to St. Augustine’s black residents earlier than other areas of the Confederacy: to own property, to marry legally, to learn to read and write, and for men, to vote and hold public office.

South Plaque: St. Augustine Men Fought on Both Sides

SACRIFICE: White men in St. Augustine formed militias which joined the Confederate Florida regiments and fought in Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. Only a handful remained to surrender in 1865. Many others were buried in graves far from home.

Black men in St. Augustine were among the first to join black fighting units in the Civil War as early as 1862. Local black men headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina, to join volunteer regiments. These forces were later designated the United States Colored Troops (USCT).

The USCT fought in segregated units led by white officers. They raided coastal areas, liberated thousands of enslaved persons, and in 1863 the Colored Troops led the way in occupying Jacksonville, Florida, and in 1865 restored the Stars and Stripes to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, where the war began.

East Plaque: The Monument as a Memorial

MEMORY: This 1879 obelisk replaces one originally built on South St. George Street in 1872. It is the second oldest Confederate monument in the state of Florida. The Ladies Memorial Association of St. Augustine raised private funds to construct the memorial to honor the town’s men who died in service of the Confederate States of America.

Its marble plaques were once attached to the 1872 Confederate memorial. The plaques list the names of forty-six men, many of whom were of Minorcan or Spanish descent, a reflection of St. Augustine’s diverse ethnic heritage.

For many years on Confederate Memorial Day, April 26th, the ladies of the Memorial Association decorated the monument with flowers. As decades passed, the memorial blended into the Plaza’s landscape. The City of St. Augustine respects the historical and emotional importance of this memorial.

West Plaque: Changing Viewpoints of the Monument

INTERPRET: The public’s response to the display of Confederate monuments from the 1870s through the Civil Rights era and beyond remains deeply personal, emotional, and divisive. Some view this memorial as a noble reminder of personal sacrifice; others interpret it as a painful reminder of the re-assertion of white supremacy.

Why are monuments and memorials important? They convey what a community feels and honors, and reflect the values of its people. Monuments and memorials reflect the social and political context of their time. Those perspectives and interpretations change over time, and this monument is no exception.

The obelisk honors local loved ones who gave up their lives in service of the Confederate states. Yet in all these Confederate state constitutions, black people were legally regarded as human property. This memorial is a reminder of the diverse legacies of the Civil War.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My hunch is that everybody upset about the words "white supremacy" appearing on the plaque haven't actually read the rest of the proposed plaque.