One Kentucky small town went is going in the opposite direction. They said they want history to be preserved, not erased. They decided to take on a mission: to save a Confederate monument from eventual destruction.
The statue had stood in Louisville for 121 years. It was 70 feet tall and weighed more than 100 tons. Louisville wanted it removed and called a public meeting to determine its relocation. One speaker from the public said it should be “obliterated,” while another stated that he would gladly help sink it in the Kentucky river.
Then the people of Brandenburg Kentucky began stepping up to the microphone.
“I think it would be well-received by the county and the residents,” the county judge executive said.
“Brandenburg has a rich Civil War history,” the local historian said.
“We’re proposing to put this monument right here,” the mayor said, holding up a photo of a riverfront park.
It wasn’t long before the largest Confederate monument in Kentucky was being disassembled and placed on flatbed trucks to be rebuilt 45 miles away.
Brandenburg Kentucky embraced the controversy that has caused chaos in places like Charlottesville, Va. and Durham, N.C. Protestors in these cities have pulled down statues and even taken lives. The violence has caused cities around the country to remove monuments that have been standing for decades quickly. The newly placed figure in Brandenburg doesn’t just symbolize a war that happened over 150 years ago, but a present day culture war.
“Anybody else who wants to throw out their statues, we’ll take those, too,” said Diane Reichle, 66, who lives a quarter-mile from the monument. “I hope we get all of them.” This is a popular sentiment in Brandenburg’s Meade County. Trump received 71 percent of the vote there. The president tweeted that the “history and culture of our great country” was being “ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”
Brandenburg’s new/old monument now stands along the Ohio River. It portrays three Confederate soldiers holding ramrods, rifles, and swords. On a placard are the words: “Tribute to the rank and file of the Armies of the South,” along with the year it was first erected, 1895.
Momentum to remove the statue for Louisville began when a University of Louisville professor called the figure an “eyesore glorifying the nadir of America’s past.” It wasn’t long before there was an April 2016 decision by the university president and Louisville mayor to uproot the monument.
“[It] has no place in a compassionate, forward leaning city,” Louisville’s mayor, Greg Fischer, said at the time.
Brandenburg historian Gerry Fischer heard of Louisville’s decision and thought it was shameful. “You study your history to learn from it,” he said. “The bad parts, too.” So he decided to find the monument a haven. After several cemeteries and historical battle-field sites turned him down, he contacted his county leaders. The town had hosted a biennial Civil War reenactment, and they also had other statues — much smaller ones — along the river, recognizing Native Americans and the Underground Railroad. They believed that a high-profile monument might cause more tourists to explore their area.
Though Kentucky remained neutral in the Civil War in the beginning before eventually joining the Union, they now have 40 Confederate monuments according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Because of the recent events in other cities, at least one person involved in relocating the statue to Brandenburg is feeling some regret. Carole Logsdon, director of the Meade County Chamber of Commerce — is beginning to have a sense of dread.
“I’d thought the monument would be great,” Logsdon said Friday morning. One of her colleagues suggested that Brandenburg could be linked to the KKK and branded as racist. Logsdon said, “I am anxious about it, I guess. We weren’t looking at it other than, we just didn’t think it should go into the trash. We just knew we had the most perfect place ever for that monument.”
Mildred Brown, 89, was one who made her objection known to the Brandenburg county judge executive. Brown, who is African American and has lived in the county for 50 years, said that in the 1970’s the KKK burned a cross on her yard. She is now watching a younger generation of white supremacists rising up across the country.
“What if they come down here, too?” she asked the judge. She told him that having the monument was a mistake, that it was s symbol of dark times.
“It doesn’t unify us,” she said. “It separates us.”
The judge told her: “Don’t worry, we’re not going to let people come down there and throw a fit and have Confederate flags and call names.” He also said the monument was about preserving a part of history with a lot of nuances. “It had a whole lot more to it than slavery,” he said.
What do you think about the Kentucky towns decision?
Credit: Washington Post