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Bypass Baxley: Support the Slavery Memorial in Florida

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Florida HB 27 seeks to establish a Slavery Memorial in Florida, but it is being held by Sen. Dennis Baxley, who believes that we should only "memorialize" the "successful." Below is a statement of a group historians, academics, and citizens calling for immediate action to bypass Sen. Baxley's prejudicial posturing:


We write, as a group of concerned scholars and faculty at universities throughout Florida as well as concerned and informed citizens of the state, to voice our opposition to and condemnation of state Senator Dennis Baxley’s comments regarding the proposed Florida Slavery Memorial.

Sen. Baxley seems to understand neither the central place of slavery in the history of the United States nor the function of memorials as markers of public memory. It should be impossible to understand the history of the United States without acknowledging and studying the place of slavery. Indeed, from the development of a racial caste system to the expansion of slavery to the ways in which freedom was both imagined and practiced, slavery was always determinative. Moreover, in order to understand the present conditions of both the state of Florida and wider nation, mired as they are in persistent and growing racial and economic inequality, one must understand the place of slavery. A memorial will not solve these issues, of course, but it would serve as a public marker of that history, a symbol around which to mobilize public discussion and collective memory. Memorials do not simply exist to celebrate that which people like Sen. Baxley perceive to be positive; they serve, instead, as sites of collective, public memory, and that memory, in the United States, should be inextricably tied to chattel slavery

Of course, Sen. Baxley’s choice of words, - especially “defeat” and “adversity” – reveal his agenda. A vocal supporter of public displays of Confederate propaganda and symbols, Sen. Baxley would much rather celebrate those that created adversity for African Americans. If we are to memorialize adversity, should we not do so through figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, who challenged systems of oppression and adversity, rather than figures like Jefferson Davis, who in themselves are monument to the creation of adversity? Moreover, if Sen. Baxley will not tolerate memorials of “defeat” then should he not vehemently oppose Confederate memorials?

We urge, indeed, insist, that the Florida legislature make the right decision, set aside Sen. Baxley’s ill-informed objections, and approve the Florida Slavery Memorial. 

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