George Mitchell writes about this memorial you will no longer find in Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison:
Surely it’s time for Madison to cease honoring slaveowners.
That thought comes to mind on reading in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has ordered the removal of a memorial to confederate soldiers at a city-owned cemetery.
As the mayor boldly stated, “There should be no place in our country for bigotry, hatred, or violence against those who seek to unite our communities and our country.” And, in case anyone would be foolish to think otherwise, he added, ”There is no disrespect to the dead with the removal of the plaque and stone.”
Moving right along, when will East and West Washington Avenue be renamed? And then there’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School on the city’s west side.
As well as Monroe Street, Jackson Street (probably named for Andrew and not Jesse), Van Buren Street, Harrison Street (assuming it was named for William Henry and not Benjamin), Tyler Circle, Taylor Street, Johnson Street (whether named for Andrew or Lyndon) and Grant Street.
As historian Stephen Ambrose has written, “Jefferson owned slaves. He did not believe that all were created equal. He was a racist, incapable of rising above the thought of his time and place, and willing to profit from slave labor.” Washington, too, was a slaveholder (he eventually freed them).
More broadly, the nation’s founding fathers simply looked the other way when it came to incorporating women’s rights into the original Constitution. How can there be any “place in our country” where they are honored?
Soglin’s posturing, of course, is nothing but a self-absorbed grasp for attention. It’s the kind of virtue-signaling that increasingly has public figures groveling to demonstrate their sanctity. For the likes of Soglin, the Charlottesville story won’t be fully told until they declare, “Look. Over here. At me.”
Below is the wording of the hateful, bigoted, racist memorial that Soglin has ordered removed. And not a minute too soon.
The valiant Confederate soldiers who lie buried here were members of the 1st Alabama Inf. Reg., Confederate States of America. They were captured in the spring of 1862 in the Civil War Battle of Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River south of Cairo, Illinois. Their task was to stop traffic carrying men and supplies to Northern forces further south.
After weeks of fighting under extremely difficult conditions, they were forced to surrender. Constant fire from river gunboats and land forces made their position untenable. After surrender, they were moved to Camp Randall and when they arrived many were suffering from wounds, malnutrition and various diseases.
Within a few weeks 140 graves were filled, the last resting places for these unsung heroes, far from their homes in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Here, also, is the grave of Alice Whiting Waterman, a gracious Southern lady who devoted more than 30 years of her life caring for the graves of “her boys.”
The history of racism in Soglin’s Democratic Party is, as someone puts it, an inconvenient truth. Jackson was a particularly virulent racist. So was Woodrow Wilson (for whom downtown Madison’s Wilson Street was named).Post-Civil War Jim Crow laws were enacted by Democrats, not Republicans. Franklin Roosevelt was so farsighted on racial issues that he interned thousands of Japanese–Americans during World War II just because they were easier to determine than Americans of German or Italian descent. Harry Truman desegregated the military, yet referred to blacks as, well, that N word. Lyndon Johnson famously said upon passage of the Civil Rights Act that “I’ll have those [there’s that word again] voting Democratic for 200 years.” And that list doesn’t include various liberal heroes from the Progressive Era such as Margaret Sanger, who believed in birth control to purify the white race.
This quote is from the friend of a Facebook Friend:
For all the people of African descent, are we not learning anything from the past. All of our history pre slavery was wiped out, censored, or beat out of our Ancestors. The good, the bad, and the ugly was denied us. Knowing how that has made us feel, or how it has shaped us, why would we want to do that now? I don’t want to memorialize racist historical people, but I certainly don’t want to have people not know they existed. There is a compromise. We should not have these statues memorized in a positive way on taxpayer buildings on the outside, but having them in museums as my sister Raydene suggested in another post. I want my kids, grandkids, their kids, and everyone to know ALL history good, bad, and ugly. EVERY country has parts that they are not proud of, that makes us all human. The klan, nazis, slavery, blm, and all hate groups are our blemish in history. Not something to be forgotten, but something to not be repeated. Calling the events of this past week, a alt-right thing, is EXACTLY why we can’t erase history. The orchestrators of these events want you to believe their history not true history. LEARN the truth people. Pick up a book, not a blog or meme.
Even more ironic is Soglin’s calling the Civil War “an act of insurrection and treason.” Some might say that protesting a war in which your country’s soldiers are fighting and dying is also an act of treason, but you know that dissent is patriotic only when Republicans are in charge in Washington.
My counterpart on Wisconsin Public Radio Friday morning equated slavery to Nazi Germany and noted there are no statues of Adolf Hitler in Germany. (That is because they are illegal in Germany, which unlike this country has never had a Bill of Rights.) It seems to me that American slavery, bad as it was, lacked the widespread genocide that Nazi Germany accomplished, if that’s what you want to call it, over just 12 years in power. This country also ended slavery on its own, instead of having the Nazis forcibly removed from power by defeating Germany in World War II.
The final point is that calling someone racist does not automatically make them racist. Indiscriminate baseless accusations of racism are why Donald Trump is president.