Confederate Symbols to be Removed From County Buildings, City May Follow

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The Vance House marker at the former Federal Reserve Bank building, now owned by Bexar County. Photo by Scott Ball.

The Vance House marker at the former Federal Reserve Bank building, now owned by Bexar County. Photo by Scott Ball.

In the wake of national controversy surrounding Confederate flags and symbols – whether federal, state, and local governments should keep them on display in public – San Antonio officials at the city and county levels are calling for their removal.

Councilmember Alan Warrick II (D2) sent a letter to Mayor Ivy Taylor on Wednesday, requesting that a task force be formed to “review and inventory all Confederate monuments and/or flags that are currently placed in public places.” The main item in question is the 1899 monument in Travis Park that honors Confederate soldiers killed in battle.

Ivy Taylor speaks with Robert Rivard at Main Plaza. Photo by Scott Ball.

Mayor Ivy Taylor. File photo by Scott Ball.

In an emailed statement, Mayor Taylor said City Manager Sheryl Sculley “has already directed staff to identify any monuments connected with Confederate history or symbolism and I will be receiving that report shortly, After which time the appropriate staff or Council committee can consider opportunities for expanding interpretation at these sites.”

Mayor Taylor stood firm on her stance that removing Confederate symbols would not solve underlying causes of racism in the U.S. but acknowledged that the flag is offensive when used as a symbol by the government.

“Selectively erasing pieces of our past may make it more comfortable for us today but it also makes it easier for many to ignore the historic struggles of Blacks in this country, a struggle for equality that continues today,” she wrote. “It is offensive to use the rebel battle flag as a symbol of a city or state but it is also offensive to pretend that Texas was never a slave state or that racism has played no role in our history for the past 150 years.  Instead, we need to do a better job of teaching history and a better job of discussing and understanding our complicated and multi-faceted past.”

Two Civil War cannons  can be found in Travie Park near the monument dedicated to fallen Confederate soldiers. Photo by Scott Ball.

Two Civil War cannons can be found in Travis Park near the 1899 monument dedicated to fallen Confederate soldiers. Photo by Scott Ball.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has also called for the removal of two plaques on County property; a 1936 Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway marker at the Bexar County Courthouse and a marker across Nueva Street from the courthouse that includes Confederate flags and a statement honoring Robert E. Lee. The Commissioner’s Court will discuss the plaques during its July 21 meeting.

“We’ve been thinking about this for awhile,” Judge Wolff said, who added that there will also be discussion about what could replace the Confederate plaques. “We want a symbol of what we all stand for … where we come together, not what divides us.”

Judge Nelson Wolff poses for a photo. Photo by Scott Ball.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. File photo by Scott Ball.

Judge Wolff said he would be hesitant to support the removal of all monuments or the renaming of Robert E Lee High School, named for the Confederate General. Former Mayor Julián Castro, now the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, recently called out local leadership to find “other, more appropriated individuals to honor, and spotlight as role models.”

There is also a Southside street in San Antonio that bears the general’s name.

“It’s really about what the flag specifically has become a symbol of,” Wolff said. “Of course (we need) history – that’s why we have schools. It’s another thing to flaunt a symbol that stood for slavery.”

The Confederate flag on South Carolina State Capitol grounds will come down on Friday after a bill was approved by the state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday afternoon. The bill was inspired by the racially motivated killings last month of nine innocent and unarmed African-Americans attending prayer services in South Carolina. The deaths sparked a national discussion on race relations that became focused on Confederate symbolism after photos emerged of the shooter, Dylann Roof, posing with the flag.

Councilmember Alan E. Warrick II (D2) spoke at the ceremony on Thursday. Photo by Joan Vinson.

Councilmember Alan E. Warrick II (D2). File photo by Joan Vinson.

“I do not want to white-wash (the Confederacy) – I don’t want to erase history by any means,” Warrick said Thursday. “But you don’t see Nazi flags flying around in Germany, they’re in museums.”

A spokesperson for the Office of Historic Preservation confirmed that the department does not have a list of Confederate artifacts or memorials on City property. Warrick was unaware of others beyond the statue in Travis Park, which was funded by the Barnard E. Bee chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy.

“It should at least be up for discussion,” he added, noting that the monument on display at Travis Park would probably be welcomed by a museum dedicated to Civil War history.

“I do not believe the vast majority of residents who support Confederate flags or monuments have hate in their hearts. The fact that some of these symbols are utilized by hate groups to harass and intimidate should be enough to give us pause,” Warrick stated in his letter to Mayor Taylor. He concluded with, “I hope as San Antonio’s leadership, we will move to discuss this topic swiftly, so that our City can continue to achieve its mission as a City on the rise for the new face of America.”

Click here to download Warrick’s letter.

Earlier this week, state Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) sent a similar letter asking Gov. Greg Abbott to convene a task force to discuss Confederacy memorials on the Capitol grounds in Austin.

While private citizens have the right to free speech, the question has become whether government entities should display what some say is an homage to 150 years of racism that has persisted since the American Civil War and Reconstruction.

Others, however, say Confederate symbols are an homage to U.S. history – those that fought for the South were Americans, too.

“We’ve contacted the mayor’s office and asked that she stand by her earlier statement,” said Russ Lane, commander of the local chapter, Alamo City Guards Camp, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “Which will take a great amount of political courage on her part … given the national hysteria.”

Lane said there is no need for a task force – that there is no need to remove Confederate symbols from public property – but if it’s created, the Sons of Confederate Veterans should be on it. And if the memorials are to be removed, they should be given to the Alamo City Guards Camp. Download his letter to Judge Wolff here.

“Let’s say we remove the Confederate monument in Travis Park … all that does is cost the City money and will do absolutely nothing for the citizens of San Antonio but it would cause discord between us (the Sons) and the City,” he said, adding that the monuments provide educational opportunities by inspiring the viewer to seek out more information. “It’s un-American when you get right down to it.”

The Vance House marker at the former Federal Reserve Bank building, now owned by Bexar County. Photo by Scott Ball.

The Vance House marker at the former Federal Reserve Bank building, now owned by Bexar County. Photo by Scott Ball.

Lane also rejects the notion that the Confederate battle flag “stands for slavery,” or for the violent murders in South Carolina. He argues that the historical use of the flag was simply for battle communications.

“All over one idiot (Dylann Roof) who did a very outrageous criminal act and because there happen to be a photo of him holding the flag,” he said. “Next month, somebody might take a stand against Vietnam Veterans.”

The University of Texas at Austin is also embroiled in a debate of its own over whether to remove Confederate monuments after three statues were vandalized. An online petition calling for the removal of the most controversial, that of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, has collected more than 3,671 supporters as of Thursday afternoon.

 

*Featured/top image: The Vance House marker at the former Federal Reserve Bank building, now owned by Bexar County. Photo by Scott Ball.

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23 thoughts on “Confederate Symbols to be Removed From County Buildings, City May Follow

    • When we finish removing all the inappropriate confederate battle flags from government property? Sorry if it bores you, but it’s important to a lot of people.

      • Boredom is not the issue, Honza.

        Oh, well. I trust you’ll enjoy your brave new world, free of all the images which have been deemed “inappropriate” by the current ruling class.

        • They are deemed “inappropriate” by the winners. The side that lost loses the chance to decide. History is always written by the winners.

          • Steve,

            I’m glad to see we sit in agreement, at least regarding this one salient point:

            “History is always written by the winners.”

            Take it easy,
            Garl

  1. I would just like to remove the litter all over downtown and other locations. Wouldn’t it be nice to go to Brackenridge Park on Easter Sunday or the parades and see no litter. Oh wait, I think I am not politically correct. Let’s keep the trash and let someone else clean it up.

  2. I agree with the mayor. I think for building names without context, they should be renamed just like streets and all types of public buildings are renamed to honor people all the time. However, for plaques and statues it’s better to keep the original and put additional commentary on another plaque adjacent. That way if for some reason culture changes or facts are uncovered that change what is now known, it can be updated. We need to learn from history, not repeat it.

  3. Some aspects of the controversy are simple. Flags and markers on public property that honor hate and revolt are a no-brainer (at least to me). Street names and cemetery markers for individuals should stay.

    Last week I visited Lockhart Texas and photographed the Caldwell County Courthouse. On side I noticed a six-foot marker for the Confederate dead. As I walked around the courthouse I noticed a myriad of flags flying. To my surprise and pleasure they were NOT the Confederate flag, they were flags for each of the branches of the US Military. As a proud Vet I was pleased that they honored the Union.

    I need to venture to Comfort Texas to see if there are any markers for the Confederacy, considering that many Comfort men were killed by Confederate soldiers because they supported the Union. Southern states are full of conflicted politics and emotions. We need to take the vitriolic speech out of the discussion to get past the relics of the Civil War (still with us after 150 years).

    • Apparently, we don’t need “to get past the relics,” Warren.

      We simply need to eliminate them!

      I guess it beats critical thinking, huh?

  4. The thought police are at it…trying to sanitize history. Why would we seek to erase such a significant part of our history? We fought a war in which 600,000 men died to help realize the dream of the founders. We should honor and embrace our history…both the high points and the low points.

    • This has nothing to do with any “thought police”. Approximately 300,000 of those men who lost their lives gave up their American citizenship and the dreams of the founders to band together into the Confederate States of America to preserve slavery. They caused the other 300,000 men to lose their lives defending the founders dreams. They should not be honored in any way. The factual history that they lost the war should definitely be taught and remembered.

      They were allowed to regain American citizenship, but still — as history and recent/current events have shown — have a ways to go to fully reconcile their loss.

    • Christian,

      In a very weird and twisted way, Steve is right. The easiest way to deal with this issue once and for all is to:

      1. Dramatically simplify the story (“Union Good; Confederacy Bad”), thereby rendering moot any attempt at critical thinking, and

      2. Eliminate every last relic of the War which violates that dictum.

      Sadly, the question is no longer “[w]hy would we seek to erase such a significant part of our history,” but “how might we do so”?

      As Steve so accurately pointed out, “History is always written by the winners.” What better way to complete the process than by reminding us of the sins of our forebears immediately prior to destroying our collective heritage?

      Garl B. Latham

  5. 20 years ago, I was using the stars and bars in a logo design just because I like how it looks. A young lady of color brought it to my attention that it has intense and diverse symbolism. Until then it never occurred to me that such a pretty design could be offensive. I grew up in California. The Civil War was not a hot topic.

  6. There are monuments around the US to the Buffalo Soldiers, units of black soldiers that fought and killed Indians. Those monuments represent oppression to the native Americans. Should we remove those monuments? Or is it OK to offend one minority but not another?

  7. To Steve Talberts comment about the 300,000 soldiers who gave up their United States citizenship to join the Confederacy, up until the passage of the 14th amendment AFTER the civil war in 1868, people were citizens of their respective states. Their was no such thing as U.S. citizenship.
    The men who fought and supported the South were acting in support of their first loyalty, that being the individual state, not the U.S. government.

    Otherwise they could have been charged with treason but were not because there would have been no legal basis for the charge.

    • Correction to a statement about citizenship: Citizenship is specified in Article Two. Citizenship in the US existed at the day of adoption of the Constitution.

  8. Garl P. Latham. Please write a piece for the Rivard Report. I’m enjoying your comments and feel your expression needs a broader audience. Your approach is not being represented in any of the pieces I’ve seen.

    How about it, Robert? Thank you.

  9. The next step is to remove images of the Founding Fathers from all coinage and public buildings. Their views on slavery were not much different from those of persons such as Robert E. Lee.

  10. I am so disappointed in Elected officials who choose to represent half their constituency love History and do not want statues to past American’s removed.
    There are groups who are linage groups and their ancestors were part of the confederacy. 99% of Confederate soldiers never owned slaves and there were also black Confederate Soldiers. Most Confederates were poor, many conscript and most had been convinced that the biggest issue was states rights. Robert E Lee was a great general and although some may be upset that he chose the south to defend he was still the ancestor of many Americans and that doesn’t make his descendants racist. I would hate to think that my great Uncle Andrew Jackson Leslie who was taken prisoner with the Meir Expedition and forced to work in Mexican mines would make me hate my Mexican friends. I don’t know where this is going to stop and it doesn’t seem to me a lot of Historical knowledge or understanding of all the past offenses will be part of History if you tear down all the statues or destroy graves of ancestors. Many of the statues were paid for my linage and Historical Societies are a mixed group of many races. I’m a genealogist and researcher and it is crazy to me to see people who are mixed race to start tearing down the memorials to their ancestors. We live in the most inclusive society I have seen in 75 years and it’s a good thing so why do we want to create a divide where we didn’t have one. Who is behind all this? I will admit I am very disappointed.

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