New Confederate Monuments Are Quietly Going Up Across the U.S.

Tom Porter

New Confederate statues and plaques are appearing across the country, and authorities are powerless to act because many are being built on private land.

The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August inspired a wave of revulsion toward monuments honoring the slave-owning Confederacy.

After racist groups gathered in the Virginia college town to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, demonstrators in Durham, North Carolina, reacted by taking down Confederate soldiers' monuments, while authorities in towns and universities across the country removed statues from public land.

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But those who honor the Confederacy have been quietly working to preserve, and even increase, the number of Confederate monuments.

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An 8-foot statue of a Confederate soldier in Lee Park, in Pensacola, Florida, on August 20. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In the small town of Orange, on the Texas-Louisiana border, the privately funded Confederate Memorial of the Wind is nearing completion. Stretching across a half-acre, the monument’s 13 pillars, each representing a Confederate state, rise from a circular base. It will eventually be surrounded by poles flying Confederate battle flags.

In Chickamauga, Georgia, last year, a new statue to a Confederate soldiers was raised, funded by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a society that aims to keep the memory of the Confederacy alive.

Local chapters of the group have placed plaques for Confederate soldiers killed in minor skirmishes in Tennessee, and the group is fundraising for a National Confederate Museum on the grounds of its headquarters in Columbia, Tennessee, with construction set to start in 2018.

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Monuments have also gone up this year on the spot of the battle of Aiken, South Carolina; Crenshaw County Park, Alabama; and, in 2016, in the town of Dahlonega, Georgia.

According to civil rights nonprofit the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), more than 30 monuments to the Confederacy have been put up since 2000, but the group believes this may be a low estimate.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans claim ancestry from those who fought for the slave-owning states in the Civil War. The man responsible for building the monument in Orange explained that he was motivated by a desire to honor his ancestors. The Daughters of the Confederacy consists of women who claim Confederate ancestry; they also work for the preservation and construction of monuments.

“Throughout history, whoever wins the war and conquers the nation, they get to write the history books,” Hank Van Slyke told The Los Angeles Times. "We've always studied that we had a good cause, and our ancestors fought for what they thought was right.”

Group members also have condemned displays of white nationalist bigotry, claiming they are an insult to the symbols they wish to preserve.

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After the unveiling of a small monument to unknown Alabama Confederate soldiers in Brantley, Alabama, only weeks after the Charlottesville protests, David Coggins, the site's owner and developer, defended the move. 

"There’s nothing racist about us," he told WSFA. "We're not white supremacists.

"As a matter of fact, we have members in our organization who are black," he said. "We have Hispanic members. We have Native American members. We have members from all over and all nationalities, and they shouldn't be concerned about any sign of offense here from us, because we honor all of those veterans.

"We're color-blind as far as that goes," said Coggins.

But critics aren’t convinced.

Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama Conference of the NAACP, condemned the move.

"The historical meaning, intent and outright disrespect noted in these Confederate symbols and monuments reignite the negative history and memories associated with them," he said.

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