Confederate Monuments Attempt To Rewrite History

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Last Sunday morning, I walked the grounds of the Gregg County courthouse, alone except for the squirrels and songbirds, taking a closer look at the various markers and monuments placed among the stately trees. The largest monument is an obelisk with a statue of a Confederate soldier at top. It is inscribed with the words, “Our Confederate Heroes” on one side of the base.

The courthouse grounds also contain a granite marker for the county’s namesake, John Gregg. He was a Georgia native who eventually moved to Freestone County, a few hours southwest of here, where he practiced law and started a newspaper. He was a member of the state’s secession convention, as well as the national convention. After secession, he joined the rebel forces and eventually commanded Hood’s Texas Brigade. Gregg was killed at the battle of New Market Road in 1864 and buried at Aberdeen, Mississippi. Nine years later, the newly formed Gregg County was named for him. It is one of 18 Texas counties named for Confederate participants in the war for secession. Gregg never lived in his namesake county. Maybe he passed through. I don’t know.

Eight months after Gregg’s death, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865 to read General Order Number 3: The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.

Slavery was the overriding reason the Civil War was fought. On the Texas State Library and Archives website, I found the text of the “Declaration of Causes of Feb. 12, 1861 — A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union.” (https://tinyurl.com/lzmljmj) It reads, in part:

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.

That marker on the Gregg County courthouse lawn is a monument to the failed attempt to preserve slavery through armed rebellion, which is a form of treason. Across the South, after Reconstruction ended and Jim Crow laws stripped Black people of virtually all their rights, these types of monuments sprung up in a largely successful attempt — at least at that time – to romanticize the South’s rebellion. It should not be surprising that, as protests are held nationwide to protest the deaths of Black people at the hands — and knees — of rogue police officers, that these monuments to “Our Confederate Heroes” have come under scrutiny.

One argument made in opposition to the removal of Confederate monuments is that, “We cannot rewrite history.” In my opinion, a massive obelisk dedicated in 1910 to “Our Confederate Heroes” was the original attempt to rewrite history.

I support moving the monument off the courthouse grounds, but not its destruction. If moving the monument is not possible, because of expense or politics, then the county, with assistance from leaders in the Black community, should erect a plaque next to the monument that outlines the struggle Black people have faced since slavery, a struggle that continues today. The plaque should also note the true cause of the Civil War, the fact that our local schools remained segregated until more than a century after that war ended, and that racial injustice remains today. As for our county being named after a Confederate general, there’s not much that can be done about that. That would take an act of the Legislature, which is highly unlikely. And the expense involved makes it impracticable as well.

As we mark Juneteenth today, my hope is that our local leaders understand and address the pain that Black people experience walking past a monument to “Our Confederate Heroes” on their way to renew their vehicle sticker, or to vote. I can’t speak to that pain, being white. But we can all certainly empathize with it and work to do something about it.

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