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Panel advises Confederate statue removal at Arlington Cemetery

by Ezekiel J. Walker
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An independent commission is recommending that the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery be dismantled and taken down, as part of its final Congressional report on the renaming of military bases and assets currently commemorating the Confederacy.

According to ABC News, panel members on Tuesday rolled out the final list of ships, base roads, buildings and other items that they said should be renamed. Yet unlike the commission’s recommendations earlier this year laying out new names for nine Army bases, there were no suggested names for the roughly 1,100 assets across the military that bear Confederate names.

The latest group of assets includes everything from the Arlington memorial, two Navy ships, Army vessels, street signs, water towers, athletic fields, hospital doors and even decals on recycling bins, according to the panel.

With ubiquitous signage and homage paid to the Confederacy on so many fixtures, Retired Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, vice-chair of the commission, said the panel determined that the memorial at Arlington was “problematic from top to bottom.” He also stated the panel recommended that it be entirely removed, with only the granite base remaining.

The statue, unveiled in 1914, features a bronze woman, crowned with olive leaves, standing on a 32-foot pedestal, and was designed to represent the American South. According to Arlington, the woman holds a laurel wreath, a plow stock and a pruning hook, with a Biblical inscription at her feet that says: “They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

The pedestal features 14 shields, engraved with the coats of arms of the 13 Confederate states and Maryland, which didn’t secede or join the Confederacy. Some of the figures also on the statue include a slave woman depicted as “Mammy” holding what is said to be the child of a white officer, and an enslaved man following his owner to war.

While the military moves to make changes to its Confederacy aesthetics, Southern cities continue to battle its neighbors in the preservation and reclamation of government buildings. In Graham, North Carolina, a judge has dismissed a lawsuit by civil rights leaders that sought the removal of a Confederate statue in front of a historic courthouse.

A monument to Confederate soldiers stands in front of the Alamance County Courthouse in Graham, N.C.

As the military is set to remove public tributes to racist leaders, Los Angeles art enthusiasts will soon peruse 15 of the toppled statues from 2020 protests across Southern states in the “Monuments” exhibition.

Those controversial Confederate monuments will go on display at a new exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in November 2023.

The South got somethin’ to say” – Andre 3000

For nearly 100 years, a monument to Confederate veterans stood in Enfield, a small town north of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. That is, until newly elected Mayor Mondale Robinson had something to say – and more importantly – do about it.

Earlier in August, the town commission voted to remove it 4 -1 in an area where Black folks make up about 85% of the total population. Then, Robinson volunteered to do it himself, going live on Facebook, he filmed the destruction of a Confederate monument and celebrated its long overdue destruction unabashedly.

Though 73 Confederate monuments were removed or renamed in 2021, there were still over 700 left standing in the US, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

For years, U.S. military officials had defended the naming of bases after Confederate officers. As recently as 2015 the Army argued that the names did not honor the rebel cause but were a gesture of reconciliation with the South. However, in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, the Pentagon and Congress pushed for a comprehensive plan to rename the military posts and hundreds of other federal assets such as roads, buildings, memorials, signs and landmarks that honored rebel leaders.

The secretary of defense is expected to implement the commission’s plan no later than Jan. 1, 2024.

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