State Watch

160 Confederate symbols removed from public spaces last year: analysis

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At least 160 Confederate symbols were removed or transferred from public spaces last year, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) analysis shared with The Associated Press.

“These racist symbols only serve to uphold revisionist history and the belief that white supremacy remains morally acceptable,” the SPLC’s chief of staff, Lecia Brooks, told the AP in a statement. “This is why we believe that all symbols of white supremacy should be removed from public spaces.”

The organization has tracked the removal of such symbols since white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine Black parishioners at a South Carolina church in 2015, prompting the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol.

Five years later, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis prompted a similar reckoning over such symbols. Several have been spontaneously pulled down during protests along with those that have been removed through official channels. In Richmond, Va., the graffiti-covered plinth of the city’s statue of Robert E. Lee has become a national symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement.

At the U.S. Capitol, Virginia lawmakers are set to vote to remove a statue of Lee from the National Statuary Hall, which features two figures representing each state. The statue will be replaced by one of Barbara Johns, one of the plaintiffs in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education civil rights decision. In 1951, Johns led a student strike at Moton High at the age of 16 to draw attention to the poor conditions at the segregated school.

In Georgia, meanwhile, bipartisan officials have backed removing the Capitol’s statue of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens and replacing it with one of the late civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (R-Ga.).

“There’s real recognition that her inclusion in the Statuary Hall collection really will be a great opportunity for folks to more fully come to understand the Moton story in full,” Cameron Patterson, executive director of the Robert Russa Moton Museum, told the AP. “So not only are they learning about Barbara and who she was, they’re learning about her classmates. They’re learning about those that continue to labor in this community, as it relates to the fight for educational equality.”

Tags Barbara Johns Confederate statues George Floyd John Lewis Robert E. Lee Southern Poverty Law Center

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