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Confederate Monument Watch, a New Genre of Journalism

In the days since Dylann Roof murdered nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, many have called for the removal of the thousands of Confederate flags, memorials, and monuments displayed in public spaces throughout the US.

The Confederate Memorial outside the Colquitt County Courthouse in Moultrie, Georgia. (photo by Michael Rivera, via Wikimedia Commons)
The Confederate Memorial outside the Colquitt County Courthouse in Moultrie, Georgia. (photo by Michael Rivera, via Wikimedia Commons)

In the days since Dylann Roof murdered nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, many have called for the removal of the thousands of Confederate flags, memorials, and monuments displayed in public spaces throughout the United States.

The flag outside the South Carolina Statehouse has certainly garnered the most attention, and state senators plan to discuss its relocation to the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. But what about the words “Confederate Memorial” on the exterior of the Orange County Historical Museum in Hillsborough, North Carolina; the Third National flag of the Confederate States of America flying outside the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History in Danville, Virginia; or the flag flying in the Confederate Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas? The sudden spike of interest in the status of any and every Confederate flag, memorial, and monument — has anyone called for its removal? has anyone made a public stand saying it should remain? has anyone tagged it “BLACK LIVES MATTER”? — has given rise to a new sub-genre of journalism.

The skeptic in me suspects this has mostly to do with people exploiting a tragedy to maximize clicks, while my inner idealist hopes it is motivated by a genuine desire to see all such racist symbols relocated or removed, and to call attention to the activists fighting for this all across the country. Whatever the case, Confederate Monument Watch has become a national phenomenon, and these are some of the most notable examples.

The Confederate Flag on the roof of the General Lee. (photo by sv1ambo, via Wikimedia Commons)
The Confederate Flag on the roof of the General Lee. (photo by sv1ambo, via Wikimedia Commons)

Volo, Illinois: The Volo Auto Museum will keep the General Lee — one of the cars used in the filming of the Dukes of Hazzard TV series, which features the Confederate Flag on its roof — on view. (Warner Bros., the company that produced the series, has said it will stop licensing General Lee memorabilia.)

Georgetown, Delaware: A Confederate flag and monument on the grounds of the Marvel Carriage Museum has become the subject of a dispute between the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Delaware — the group that had them erected in 2007 — and New Castle County Council president Chris Bullock, who has called for the flag to be taken down and placed inside the museum.

Orlando, Florida: The Mayor’s office has received comments both in favor of leaving and demanding the relocation of a Confederate monument that has stood in Lake Eola Park since 1917, and is currently “exploring options” for what to do with it.

St. Louis, Missouri: Locals are calling for the removal of a monument to Confederate soldiers and sailors that sits in Forrest Park alongside the Missouri History Museum, and the renaming of the adjacent street, Confederate Drive. While legislation to rename the street is expected to be introduced soon, there are no concrete plans to move the memorial.

North Carolina: State museums at Civil War battle sites throughout North Carolina said they would not comply with Governor Pat McRory’s request that they stop selling Confederate flag items.

The Orange County Historical Museum in Hillsborough, North Carolina (photo by Alexisrael, via Wikimedia Commons)
The Orange County Historical Museum in Hillsborough, North Carolina (photo by Alexisrael, via Wikimedia Commons)

Hillsborough, North Carolina: The town’s board of commissioners voted 3-2 against allowing the Historical Foundation of Hillsborough and Orange County to remove the words “Confederate Memorial” from above the front door to the Orange County Historical Museum.

Monroe, North Carolina: After small Confederate flags were placed around a Confederate memorial at the Old County Courthouse without permission, and subsequently removed, Union County commissioners vice chair Stony Rushing fast-tracked a proposal to have the former courthouse and its grounds designated a museum.

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: The 18th North Carolina Company A, a group of Civil War re-enactors who usually participate in the local Fourth of July parade, have been asked to not display the Confederate flag if they march this year.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: A day after claiming that it would not comply with a National Park Service request that retailers in national parks cease selling Confederate flags and memorabilia featuring the flag, the bookstore in the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center pulled all Confederate flag items from its shelves.

Greenville, South Carolina: The Museum and Library of Confederate History, which has six different Confederate flags flying outside its entrance (Roof visited the site May 10), has seen attendance increase dramatically since the murders.

San Antonio, Texas: Ivy Taylor, the Mayor of San Antonio — to date the largest city in the US to have elected a black woman mayor — came out in favor of keeping the Confederate flag that flies in the city’s privately owned Confederate Cemetery in place. “I was an American Studies major in college and feel that the more history we know and remember, the better,” she said. “Erasing historical monuments doesn’t make our past any easier to understand or deal with today.”

Danville, Virginia: Since last year the town has been divided over its Confederate memorial, which stands on the grounds of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History — which in turn is housed in the building where Confederate president Jefferson Davis last met with his cabinet before Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union. In October, the museum’s board made a request to the city to remove the Third National flag of the Confederate States of America from the flagpole outside the museum inside the building, setting off a firestorm of public debate that has taken on new vigor in the aftermath of the Charleston murders. A different Confederate flag was wrapped around a public sculpture on the grounds of the museum in an apparent prank.

Slidell, Louisiana: After Walmart announced that it would stop selling Confederate flag merchandise, a man hoping to order a cake decorated with the flag and the words “Heritage Not Hate” was turned away from his local Walmart in Slidell, Louisiana. Incensed, Chuck Nethammer returned the following day and successfully purchased a custom-decorated cake featuring the ISIS flag. (Walmart subsequently apologized.) Nethammer documented the cake debacle on YouTube.

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