State and local governments have removed at least 110 publicly supported monuments and other tributes to the Confederacy since the 2015 white supremacist massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, but more than 1,700 remain, many of them protected by state laws in the former Confederate states, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has found.
The SPLC today released an updated version of its 2016 report Whose Heritage?, which catalogued 1,503 monuments, place names, state holidays and other symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces across the South and the nation. The data set is available for download.
The new report identifies 1,728 Confederate symbols, an increase that reflects new information obtained after government entities, journalists and others reexamined the symbols in their locales. It does not include thousands of markers, monuments or other tributes on or within battlefields, museums, cemeteries and other places that are largely historical in nature.
“We’ve seen a remarkable effort to remove Confederate monuments from the public square, yet the impact has been limited by a strong backlash among many white Southerners who still cling to the myth of the ‘Lost Cause’ and the revisionist history that these monuments represent,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.
The new study found:
- 772 monuments in 23 states and the District of Columbia; more than 300 are in Georgia, Virginia or North Carolina;
- 100 public schools named for Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis or other Confederate icons;
- 80 counties and cities named for Confederates;
- 9 paid holidays for state employees in five states; and
- 10 U.S. military bases named for Confederate military heroes.
The Confederate holidays include Jefferson Davis’ Birthday, which is being celebrated today in Alabama.
The report also identifies two distinct periods that saw a significant rise in the dedication of monuments and other symbols. The first began around 1900, amid the period in which Southern states were enacting Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise the newly freed African Americans and re-segregate society. The second began in the early 1950s and lasted through the 1960s, as the civil rights movement led to a backlash among segregationists.
The report also identifies the sponsors of monuments, including the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which has been responsible for erecting hundreds of statues at courthouses and other venues since the Civil War.
The 110 removals since the Charleston attack include 47 monuments and four flags, and name changes for 37 schools, seven parks, three buildings and seven roads. Eighty-two removals were in former Confederate states. Texas led the way (31), followed by Virginia (14), Florida (9), Tennessee (8), Georgia (6), Maryland (6), North Carolina (5) and Oklahoma (5).
In 2017, then New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu powerfully defended the city’s removal of three prominent monuments and denounced the “false narrative” promoted by the “Cult of the Lost Cause.”
"The SPLC is providing an important resource to show the pervasiveness of Confederate monuments and markers across the country," said Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans and author of In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History. "Each community has to make their own decision about what to do with them or how to place them in context, but we cannot continue to ignore the pain that these statues and markers have for many in our country. The key questions I went through when deciding what to do in New Orleans were: When was it put up? By whom? For what purpose? Thanks to the SPLC's research, local leaders and residents will have a better understanding of many of those questions, which will help in charting a better path forward."
Some removals were highly contentious, such as in Charlottesville, Virginia, where hundreds of white supremacists staged a deadly rally last August to protest the planned removal of a prominent statue of Robert E. Lee.
“People across the country are waking up to the reality that these tributes to the Confederacy perpetuate the idea of white supremacy and glorify a regime that supported the torture, murder and enslavement of black people,” Beirich said. “That’s why white supremacists today continue to wave the Confederate flag. It’s time for courageous political leaders to say enough is enough.”