Remove the Confederate Statue from in front of the Albemarle County Courthouse
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In May 1909, a statue of a Confederate soldier was installed in front of the Albemarle County courthouse. UVA and Charlottesville businesses closed for this large event, in which UVA students joined a parade of 1,000 school children singing “Dixie” and carrying Confederate flags. The white supremacist values guarded by Johnny Reb were expressed during the statue’s unveiling when a speech by a Confederate veteran praised the Confederacy as a “righteous cause” and bemoaned Reconstruction (1865-1877) as an expansion of a “worse slavery”: that of whites under black rule. Echoes of this specious claim of white victimization reverberate today in the alt-right’s slogan, “You will not replace us!” The 1909 speaker’s proposed solution to the alleged tyranny of a black majority was the imposition of an iron-fisted “law and restraint,” which became codified in Jim Crow segregation laws.
The County has largely avoided any accountability in confronting white supremacy. It’s unfair that the Board of Supervisors is silent while the Charlottesville City Council confronts the hatred and bigotry conveyed by the Confederate statues. Especially given that Johnny Reb, which is on County land, is, politically and philosophically speaking, the most offensive of these statues: it’s at the *Courthouse*-- where we’re all supposed to have equal justice under the law. In 2015, Judge Martin F. Clark, Jr. of Martinsville removed a portrait of General J.E.B. Stuart from the courthouse because “The courtroom should be a place every litigant and spectator finds fair and utterly neutral.”
Confederate symbols are not neutral historical objects. They represent a heritage of hate. Last summer, violent mobs of white supremacists whose stated purpose was the defense of Confederate statues stormed Charlottesville streets. Long before and after the Unite the Right rally, the alt-right’s ideal white ethnostate, the Confederate States of America, is defended by Johnny Reb from the lawn of the Courthouse--where equal justice under the Rule of Law is supposed to operate according to the U.S. Constitution, which the Confederacy sought to destroy.
Two Albemarle County Supervisors were members of the 1909 monument committee for Johnny Reb. Their present-day successors--some of whom recently ventured to Montgomery, Alabama, on a civil rights pilgrimage to memorialize local 1898 lynching victim John Henry James--should break their silence about this Confederate monument to white supremacy which is maintained on County land.
Albemarle County residents have a right to know where their elected officials stand on this critical issue of Confederate symbolism in our public spaces. August 12th took place in our community and Charlottesville/Albemarle is now an epicenter of the contemporary civil rights movement. The time for apathy and complacency is over. We are now in a period, locally, where principled leadership on matters of racial justice is not just expected, but is essential and is being demanded. Where do you stand?
It's past time to remove this 109-year-old hateful relic from our public space. Every day that Johnny Reb remains in front of the Courthouse without an official condemnation by County officials continues the tacit endorsement of its white supremacist values. A passive “wait-and-see” stance with regard to the outcome of the lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville is not sufficient. Nor is a resolution with a generic disavowal of white supremacy, or the placement of a new plaque to “contextualize” this Confederate monument. The Board of Supervisors must:
- Go on record stating that the statue does not reflect the values of justice that should be above all else on those grounds,
- Vote to remove the Johnny Reb statue from its place of honor as soon as possible,
- Should state law prohibit such action, demand the legislative change necessary to allow for its removal,
- Support efforts including, but not limited to: education, new historical markers, and policy changes that promote equity and justice.
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