NAACP: Explanatory markers around Atlanta Confederate monuments a 'profound disappointment'

NAACP: Explanatory markers around Atlanta Confederate monuments a 'profound disappointment'
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The Atlanta chapter of the NAACP is criticizing explanatory markers placed around Confederate statues, arguing the signs don’t go far enough in fighting the racism that the statues promote. 

Contextual signs were placed around Confederate statues in the city, but in a Tuesday letter to the Atlanta City Council, Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose said they don’t "counter the notion of white supremacy."

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Rose specifically calls out a statue in Piedmont Park that he said is “particularly offensive,” claiming it “misquotes Booker T. Washington” and uses a controversial speech that was “widely lauded by southern whites and criticized by blacks.”

“It would appear that the objective of the marker is to encourage the acceptance of white supremacy as Washington taught and advocated. I believe those in Atlanta who reject racism will find this endorsement of racism unacceptable,” he wrote. “It is never too late to do the right thing and I hope your committee will examine this work and consider other treatments.”

The NAACP shared a copy of the letter with The Hill. The organization’s pushback was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Rose also accused council members of being “complicit on compromising on racism” on Wednesday, the newspaper reports. 

“It’s such a profound disappointment. It doesn’t give the story of why these monuments were built and the effect they have to this day,” he reportedly said. 

For example, one marker on the “Lion of Atlanta” statue mentions the “changing motives" for Confederate monuments.

“Monument construction spiked in the early and mid-twentieth century during periods of tension over civil rights and opposition to racial equality,” it reads, based on an image tweeted by Civil War historian Kevin M. Levin.

“The Confederate Obelisk and Lion of Atlanta were created to memorialize the dead but, like other Confederate monuments, now serve as reminders that our perspectives and understanding of history change over time.”

Council member Carla Smith defended the language placed on the markers, which includes discussions of white supremacy, Jim Crow laws, segregation and their legacy, the Journal-Constitution reports.

“We didn’t try to sweep it under the rug,” Smith said. “Hopefully, 100 years from now, somebody will say, ‘They may not have been perfect, but they tried under the state law they were living under.’ ”

Atlanta History Center president and CEO Sheffield Hale said the markers are intended to promote conversations, including comments like Rose’s criticism, the paper reports. 

“We ought to be discussing the history, and that’s what they are there for,” Hale said.

The markers are subject to change or be added to as time goes on, he said.

— This report was updated at 10:13 a.m.