Atlanta’s leaders are right . . . Don’t erase the Old South’s history!
A editorial opinion based on my perspective as a professional architect, city planner and urban designer
A city without history is like a zombie with amnesia . . . lost in time and space.
Textbooks in the United States are not telling the true and complete history of the “Old South” . . . just caricatures of a handful of politicians and generals, who are also seen in the statues that dot cityscapes. The textbooks are saying too little about the people’s history. Thus, demagogues, with aspirations of being America’s Hitler, are able to attract masses of Southerners with bogus history and delusional political beliefs. On the other side of the political spectrum, people also treat their political beliefs as a religion, without really understanding the true history of the Southeast.
These same textbooks define Native Americans in terms of a few chiefs, a lot of broken treaties and the Trail of Tears. After the Trail of Tears, the authors of history books assumed Southeastern Native Americans to be extinct. Of course, there are very, very few statues of Native Americans in the Southeast, so we don’t have to worry about them being torn down. Nevertheless, we are stuck with the myths that our non-Native American neighbors believed to “gospel” truths.
Like most of you Creek, Uchee and Seminole readers, all of my gg-grandfathers fought in the Confederate Army. Being hard-working yeoman farmers, they had no choice – unlike the sons of wealthy planters. All of my Creek ancestors were in Cobb’s Legion, Army of Northern Virginia. They fought in all of the major battles of the Civil War in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. This is the famous regiment featured in the movie, “Gods and Generals.” Their regimental flag is now the official state flag of Georgia. For our tribes, the American Civil War is very much part of the Native American experience.
My Uncle Hal and I were in the Sons of Confederate Veterans, until the organization was taken over by fascists and began using the Nazi salute for saying the Pledge of Allegiance. So . . . this essay is not by a dilettante talking about someone else’s heritage.
Approximately two weeks ago, the Atlanta History Center, Central Atlanta Progress and Atlanta Chamber of Commerce issued a joint communique to their metropolitan area, urging government officials not to jump on the current bandwagon, seen in several cities in the Southeast, of tearing down 19th century statues of Civil War leaders. The position of Atlanta’s leaders is that although these leaders represented the social values of their times, which may seem repugnant today, they are still landmarks that define that era. They also add greatly to the quality of life in cities. The civic leaders urged government officials to tell the complete history of the Atlanta Area with public art.
That is so true. We need more statues and public art in Southeastern cities, not fewer.
It started over a year ago, when the New Orleans City Council approved plans to remove statues of Southern Civil War leaders from lands owned by the city. The tourism industry, architects and city planners in Louisiana should have raised heck about this plan, but stayed strangely reticent . . . not wanting to appear racist. Neo-Nazi’s seized on the issue by saying that removing the statues was stealing their White, Southern, Christian heritage. Their involvement made it impossible for more rational thinkers in New Orleans to cool down leaders of New Orleans African-American community. It became a football game like almost everything else these days. History and politics wedded to become a pseudo-religion.
At that point, tearing down Robert E. Lee’s statue became a symbolic lynching of “white history” to get revenge for all the atrocities committed by white Louisianans against blacks at the past. What did they get in its place? In their minds they perceived the destruction of public statues as great victories for “civil rights.” What they actually received were a lot of bills to pay and holes in their once picturesque landscape. Tourists are not particularly interested in being photographed next to holes. The result was a big dent in their municipal budget that could have paid for at least three statues honoring the city’s rich African-American heritage. The cost of removing the statue, putting up security fencing, blocking traffic and providing 24/7 police security was astronomical. But again, this was all about the 21st century America’s pseudo-religion, known as “our side has to win” . . . not about a rational way to beautify a city.
In regard to the public arena, what African-American leaders need to concentrate on is sponsoring public art that will inspire their children to follow in the footsteps. Most likely, few citizens in New Orleans would complain if the city started a program of sponsoring a statue of a famous African-American a year on the median of St. Charles Avenue. The program would also create income for local artists.
What to do about Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, VA
Thanks to the traumatic events of this past weekend there is now too much blood shed and hatred sown, just to do nothing. Tearing down Robert E. Lee’s statue, as planned, would be a crime against civic art. It is not destruction of Southern history as claimed, because Lee is one of the few Southerners, who is consistently mentioned in American history books. Lee could not bear the thought of waging war against his relatives, neighbors and friends. After Abraham Lincoln announced plans to invade Virginia with a 100,000 man army, Lee declined the offer to command that army and instead was offered a staff job with the Confederacy. Lee did not take command of the Army of Northern Virginia until Federal troops were about to capture Richmond in 1862.
Paul Goodloe McIntire (1860-1952) was a Charlottesville boy, who became a multi-millionaire trading stocks and commodities on Wall Street. He was a principal donor to the University of Virginia, but in 1917 also purchased a city block to be a park to house a magnificent statue of Robert E. Lee. The Charlottesville City Council recently voted to change the name of the park from Lee Park to Emancipation Park and to remove this large, beautiful statue of Robert E. Lee.
As the reader can see above, the park is already divided into many segments. It is ideally suited to tell the complete story of slavery and the American Civil War. There is plenty of room to install statues or sculptures that honor all of the participants in history. The story should include the anonymous young privates and sergeants on both sides, who had nothing to gain from the war, but did the bulk of the dying. Terrorist victim Heather Heyer’s memorial should be placed at the foot of Robert E. Lee’s statue so all will remember that terrible day.
George Thomas is considered by many historians as the most competent general in the Union Army in the Civil War. David Faragut is considered the Union’s ablest admiral. Both men were from Virginia and both men were persecuted by Abraham Lincoln because they were Southerners. Their statues should be in this park, too because their families disowned them when they remained loyal to the Union.
Teaching myths to generations of Southerners
Thanks to our history books being used to create a mythological South that never existed and apparently a general incompetence among many political science teachers, we have produced a large number of Americans, who have a delusional understanding of the world. That was quite evident in Charlottesville this past weekend. The Rightwing marchers literally said that the enemy in the war they are fighting are the “Marxist liberals.” Their goal is “to return America back to the conservative government of our founding fathers.” “Marxist Liberals” is an incredibly stupid oxymoron. Hitler and Lenin both hated Liberals. The word is the Anglicization of the Latin word, which means “those who free slaves.” Most of our founding fathers were Liberals. The remainder were Radicals. Their enemies were the Conservatives, who were typically called Tories.
To illustrate how ignorant, people in the United States about the history of the Southeast, we will close with a list of facts, which are well documented, but never seen in public school history books.
(1) Prior to the Civil War, Georgia was the most socialistic (Marxist) state that ever existed in the Union. The state constructed and owned the railroads and canals. Georgia still owns most of the principal rail right-of-ways. The state was the real estate developer and land planner for most of large towns built on former Creek Indian lands. The state owned manufacturing plants and most of the major roads. The state was a part owner in many manufacturing plants. The state owned the docks in Savannah, Darien and Brunswick back when such things were privately owned in the rest of the world.
(2) Charleston and Savannah were the only ports in the United States open to Irish immigrants during the Great Potato Famine. Southern communities and the Choctaw Tribe sent large quantities of food to aid the Irish, while England was intentionally starving them. A very high percentage of enlisted Confederate soldiers from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia were first generation Irish-Americans.
(3) Summing up all the states below the Mason-Dixon Line, the majority of Southerners (white men, of course) voted against Secession.
(4) The citizens of Georgia voted against secession in a plebiscite. Secessionists ignored the vote and bribed state legislators into seceding.
(5) Many North Alabama, North Georgia and East Tennessee counties formed pro-Union militias when their states seceded. General William Sherman’s army would have been defeated in several battles and probably not taken Atlanta without the critical assistance of Pro-Union Georgia militia cavalry units, who were issued Union uniforms by Sherman. It is strongly suspected that Tennessee Union cavalry also made possible the capture of Knoxville and Chattanooga by Union troops.
(6) The vast majority of neo-Nazis and KKK members in Alabama and Georgia live in counties that were pro-Union in the Civil War and even today have very few African-American residents. It is so ironic to see young Billy Bobs riding around with Confederate Battle Flags on their pickups in counties, where they would have been shot on sight for such an offense in the Civil War.
(7) Jews and Native Americans were generally not allowed to be officers in the Union Army, whereas they were commonplace among the Confederate officer corps. Jews were not allowed to serve in higher positions in the United States government, whereas two of the most powerful men in the Confederacy were Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin and Senator David Levy of Florida. All members of the Five Civilized Tribes were declared citizens of the Confederacy and had the right to elect members of the Confederate Congress. The United States would not give this right of citizenship until the 1920s.
(8) Members of a special elite platoon of cavalry, who were supposed to escort the Confederate gold reserve and President Jefferson Davis to South Georgia, disappeared shortly before he was captured. As soon as the war ended, the unit’s officers began buying up vast tracts of prime bottomland in the Georgia Mountains and southeastern Tennessee. That’s why “the Confederate gold disappeared.”
(9) Southern armies lost far more men to desertion than combat deaths.
(10) By the last year of the Civil War, there were more white Southerners in the Union Army than in the Confederate Army.
(11) The last Confederate unit in the field was the Cherokee and Creek Mounted Rifles. It never really surrendered . . . just went home. Its commanding officer was Colonel Stand Watie (Cherokee), who was born in Pine Log, GA. Its second in command was Major Chillie McIntosh (Creek) who was born near Carrollton, GA. Both of their fathers and several of their brothers had been executed for signing treaties that ceded all tribal lands and moved their respective tribes to Indian Territory. Both of these men also signed the treaties, but were able to escape execution.
And now you know!
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