CHATTANOOGA – Earlier today, the Hamilton County Commission voted to allow a Jim Crow-era bust to remain in front of its courthouse. The following statement is from Southern Poverty Law Center Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks:
“While the citizens of Hamilton County’s fight was truly about confronting the horrific realities of our past and an oppressive Confederate symbol that glorified it, the intent of Roy Exum’s column was to divide the community.
“Tennesseans should not allow him to drive the narrative regarding the removal of Confederate iconography from public spaces by continuing to debase the names of Black people who were unjustly killed by the police.
“The extrajudicial killing of Black people and the removal of Confederacy symbols from public spaces are not interchangeable events. Further, Exum's double standard does not negate the fact that Hamilton county citizens petitioned to remove this oppressive Jim Crow-era bust.
“Despite the claims that A.P. Stewart never supported slavery, history shows that he – along with all who supported the Confederacy – understood that keeping Blacks enslaved would be the result, had the Confederacy prevailed in the Civil War.
“It seems that the Confederacy is the only entity entitled to receive a pass when it comes to its disloyalty to our country, but our public buildings, landmarks and institutions should not be used to venerate the United States of America.
“While the vote to keep it in place is unfortunate, the SPLC will continue to support communities in their ongoing fight to remove these racist monuments from public lands.”
The SPLC does not support erasing history, nor the defacing and/or destruction of any historic artifact. Learn about Confederate symbols on public land in the SPLC’s “Whose Heritage?” report.
In 2018, the SPLC released an updated version of its Whose Heritage? report, identifying nearly 1,800 Confederate monuments, parks, schools, state holidays and other symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces across the South and the nation.
In Tennessee alone, 107 Confederate symbols remain on public land; 43 of those symbols are monuments. To date, at least 26 of those Confederate monuments sit on courthouse and/or government office grounds across Tennessee.