Debate continues on whether Confederate icons should be glorified

Posted at 10:50 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 06:59:08-04

Calls to remove confederate monuments in Acadiana and to change the name of a Parish are growing.

These calls, coming amid protests for racial equity across the United States. Some say looking back at history, would help others better understand why they want those monuments removed. However, opinions remain divided.

One woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, is against taking the monuments down.

"I think they should stand," she said. "I think we need unity all around Lafayette and the world. I think God wants us to unite as one."

When asked what she would say to someone who finds the monuments offensive, she replied "It's a piece of cement. It (taking down the monuments) is an excuse to cause strife and division in my opinion."

However, for UL Lafayette political science professor Rick Swanson, the history behind the monuments is deeper than cement.

"They were built at the height of really intense, violent, racial oppression. What was known as Jim Crow era," Swanson said. "It was the height of the resurgence of the KKK, in the 1920s. The height of lynching. It was not a coincidence these monuments were built as glorification of what whites saw was the fight for white supremacy. That even though the confederates had lost the fight to keep slavery, they then won the fight to block racial equality during reconstruction. They ultimately won the larger fight to keep exclusive control of white supremacy in the south."

He added, "These monuments are a glorification of these confederates that fought and lost the civil war, but then came home and fought the federal government again. They won by defeating racial equality."

There are dozens of confederate monuments throughout the state of Louisiana with 3 parishes named after confederate officials.

Jeff Davis Parish is one of them. Right now there is a petition to change the Parish's name. Click here to read more.

The parish is named after Jefferson Davis. He resigned from the U.S senate to become the confederacy's president. He said in his resignation speech, he didn't believe "Black and White people were equal."

Allen Parish is named for Henry Watkins Allen, a former confederate general who was Louisiana's Governor at the end of the Civil War.

Beauregard Parish is named for confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard who, unlike other former confederates, changed his beliefs after the war and advocated for the civil rights of Blacks, including the right to vote.

Swanson is encouraging others to research the history behind the monuments and recommends visiting the Chronicling America website.

It's a free, publicly accessible online database provided by the Library of Congress. It has a collection of digitized historic newspapers that can be searched by state, newspaper, and dates, with a detailed search text function as well.

"If we want to be good neighbors to our fellow citizens and make them feel included," Swanson said. "The way you make them feel included is not by having a monument that says they're racially inferior."

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