MONTGOMERY, Ala. – While several Southern states have respectfully moved away from observing Confederate Memorial Day, Alabama and Mississippi will continue the tradition today. On Tuesday, April 26, Florida will also celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. Even though Georgia rebranded the day as a “state holiday,” Stone Mountain Park is keeping the Confederacy alive by allowing white nationalists to commemorate the legacy of slavery on public land.
The following statement is from the Southern Poverty Law Center Chief of Staff and Culture Lecia Brooks:
“This time last year, we were optimistic that Gov. Brian Kemp’s leadership changes to the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA) would produce a more inclusive – and less offensive – public space for Georgians and visitors to enjoy. But later this month, Stone Mountain Park will once again provide a platform to white nationalists, as it did in 1915 when the Ku Klux Klan was reborn atop the mountain.
“This is a disgraceful reversal for the SMMA, which promised ‘truth-telling’ about the park’s ugly history going forward. Unfortunately, they also continue to accommodate the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a heritage group that exists to keep the Confederacy’s lies and propaganda alive.
“For the park to authorize their presence yet again, after repeated pleas from local activists like the Stone Mountain Action Coalition to reject such arrogant displays of white privilege, serves as a direct blow and insult to the city’s majority Black community, Georgians, and tourists. Allowing SCV to celebrate the values of the Confederacy on public land validates the rhetoric of SCV and its keynote speaker, which sends a dangerous message that Stone Mountain continues to be a safe space for white nationalists to gather.
“Unlike Stone Mountain Park, there are states that respect the sentiments of communities that want symbols of hate removed from their public spaces. From Virginia to South Carolina to Puerto Rico, Americans are recognizing that the true legacy of the Confederacy was to preserve the institution of slavery and promote white supremacy.”
The Path Forward
In 2021, 73 Confederate memorials were removed from public spaces. Seven of those removals happened in Florida – including six school renamings – thanks to the efforts of Jacksonville activists. The Northside Coalition of Jacksonville now looks to hold the Mayor accountable for his 2020 promise to remove all symbols of the Confederacy from the city, starting with the statue in Springfield Park.
Last week, St. Landry Parish in Louisiana authorized the removal of a 102-year-old statue from courthouse property instead of rededicating it. Lee Circle has been renamed Harmony Circle. Eliminating Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee Day as legal holidays are now also on the table. By 2023, hopefully Louisiana and South Carolina will no longer revel in the Confederacy’s divisive and oppressive past. Military property is being renamed. And Georgia students are taking the lead by continuing their push to rename Wheeler High School, which honors a Confederate leader who fought to ensure that Black people would remain enslaved.
Brooks continued, “While some heritage groups and states consistently use this month to honor those who fought to preserve slavery, Americans across the country are taking action by rejecting revisionist history and removing Confederate memorials in all their inhumane forms.
“We are even reimagining the statues born out of fear and intimidation to create art that tells a more complete story, like the traveling Blank Slate Monument which unites the Black experience before, during, and after the Civil War.
“As the month of April closes with Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and the SMMA’s refusal to end this annual tribute to defeat, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) salutes every activist doing this hard but necessary work on the ground.
“While some memorials remain standing despite your advocacy, many more have been removed, renamed, or relocated thanks to grassroots efforts. The SPLC understands that this work is not easy, but know that we support you and will not stop fighting alongside you until all symbols of the Confederacy are removed from public space.”
Earlier this year, the SPLC released the third edition of its Whose Heritage? report, data, and map, which tracks public symbols of the Confederacy across the United States. The report shows that more than 2,000 Confederate memorials are still publicly present in the U.S. and over 700 of those are monuments. If you know of a Confederate symbol in your area or would like to share an update, please send an email to [email protected].