Confederate Monument Erected in Alabama, Timing Called a 'Coincidence'

As Confederate statues and memorials come down across the country, Alabama has broken rank, unveiling a new monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers in Crenshaw County. 


The small monument is dedicated to “Unknown Alabama Confederate Soldiers," and sits on display in Confederate Veterans Memorial Park, private land just north of Brantley, Crenshaw County, according to AL.com. Surrounding it are existing monuments, replica Confederate war cannons, and Confederate flags flying above them all.

Nearly 200 people attended the ceremony, many of whom were dressed in Confederate merchandise that included t-shirts with Confederate flags or full Confederate war gear. According to AL.com, 10 members of the militia movement Three Percenters stood in back wearing camouflage clothing and carrying large guns at the ceremony, "in case anything were to happen."

“Why we're here is to honor our Confederate dead, to honor our ancestors," said David Coggins, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, during a speech at the unveiling. "That's why I'm in it, that's what it's all about. We should all be proud of our Confederate ancestors."

The monument was unveiled Sunday afternoon, in the wake of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one counter-protester was killed and dozens of others were injured. The violence was sparked by a Neo-Nazi march purportedly protesting the removal of a statue depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee. 

Following Charlottesville, many statues have come down across the country, including one of Robert E. Lee in New York City’s CUNY Hall of Fame as well as four separate monuments in Baltimore, Maryland. Most were removed from cities in the Confederacy, including New Orleans, Durham and Gainesville. 

Confederate monuments removed or proposed to be removed in the U.S. Graphic credit: New York Times, as of 9/28/17

House Democrats presented legislation last week prohibiting the upkeep of Confederate statues on federal property through taxpayer funds, according to the Hill. Senator Cory Booker and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are taking the movement a step further and calling for the removal of all Confederate statues from the Capitol.

The fallout after Charlottesville has reignited a national debate over Confederate monuments' place in the public sphere.

A majority of these statues were erected during Jim Crow, with the express purpose of inimidating black populations. According to Mother Jones, Alabama's monument and the timing of its unveiling serve a similar purpose: “to physically symbolize white terror against blacks.” 

The Alabama division of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans Jimmy Hill insists it was simply an unfortunate coincidence. “We have been really scrutinized for the past two weeks," he said. “This has been in the works for nine months, but because we put it on the website two days after [the Charlottesville clashes], the media put that together.”

Bernard Simelton, president of the Alabama Conference of the NAACP, disagrees.

“If they had to unveil it, why would they unveil it on the heels of such a tragic event that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia?" Simelton told WSFA Montgomery. "The historical meaning, intent and outright disrespect noted in these Confederate symbols and monuments re-ignite the negative history and memories associated with them."

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