The country set records for Confederate cleansing in 2020, taking down 168 monuments and symbols honoring the Civil War’s rebels, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a new report Tuesday.
That’s more than the four previous years combined, and nearly all of those take-downs came in the seven months after the death of George Floyd spurred a national round of racial justice protests and reckonings.
The SPLC has tracked Confederate symbols since the 2015 shooting at the Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina, and called 2020 a “transformative year.”
Virginia, capital of the Confederacy, led the way in trying to erasing the honors it bestowed on schools, roads and parks, taking down or renaming 71 monuments or symbols. North Carolina was second with 24 take-downs.
The SPLC says it knows of more than 2,100 symbols still standing, with 704 of those buildings, parks, streets, statues, plaques or other monuments. More than 300 of those symbols were reported in 2020 alone, the organization said.
“Many were located in the South, specifically Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, where preservation laws prohibit communities from making their own decisions about what they want to see in their public spaces,” said Lecia Brooks, chief of staff at the SPLC. “These dehumanizing symbols of pain and oppression continue to serve as backdrops to important government buildings, halls of justice, public parks, and U.S. military properties, including ten bases named after Confederate leaders across the South.”
Among the symbols changed in 2020 in Virginia were the state’s Lee-Jackson Day holiday, a number of Confederate soldier memorials and a host of schools and statues dedicated to Stonewall Jackson, the legendary Confederate general.
Maryland changed one symbol, the Jeb Stuart Trail in Montgomery County, which was renamed the Northern Edge Trail.
In the District of Columbia, a statue of Albert Pike was felled by demonstrators on June 19. In December, a statue of Robert E. Lee that Virginia had contributed as one of its two pieces in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall collection was removed.
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