A 100-year-old Confederate monument will remain standing in the town square of a North Texas county, meeting a very different fate than did a historical statue of General Robert E. Lee in nearby Dallas.
Denton County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to keep a Confederate memorial in its place on the south side of the Courthouse on the Square with a few updates. The county will bring it into the 21st Century with audio and video “kiosks” that provide historical context and a plaque that denounces slavery.
The statue, built in 1918 by the Daughters of the Confederacy, depicts a Confederate soldier standing with a rifle atop an arch with the inscription, “Our Confederate Soldiers.” It is a registered state landmark.
The decision followed recommendations made by a 15-member Confederate memorial advisory committee that Denton County commissioners appointed in November. They tasked the group with finding solutions on whether or not to remove the statue.
Last Thursday, the advisory committee voted 12-3 to recommend that the county keep the Confederate statue and add monitors and a new plaque. At the time, committee chairman John Baines said he originally supported removing the statue and replacing it with a memorial dedicated to all Denton County veterans; however, he yielded to a middle ground position when 10 of the 15 committee members opposed moving the statue.
Baines told the Denton newspaper the new plaque condemning slavery will sit beneath the monument’s arch and be large enough to read the words from a short distance so that “anytime you take a picture of that monument, you take a picture of that alternative language.” He added that the audio/video monitors will flank the monument’s sides and display interviews about local veterans, racial progress, and the history of slavery in Denton County.
According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, county commissioners will hash out the logistics and costs of the committee’s suggestions as well as iron out the new wording for the plaque. Currently, the signage reads, “The monument stands as a reminder of historic events and is intended as a memorial to Denton County citizens who sacrificed themselves for the community. Now, let this be a testimony that God created all men equal with certain inalienable rights. We are one, citizens of Denton County.”
The commissioners said they wanted to move forward on the project quickly. Several suggested they pay for the updating with county funds but others disagreed. “I have had emails from citizens who say they’re not opposed to additional context, but the statue was put up with donated funds and if anything is added, they want it done with donated funds, not county tax dollars,” said Denton County Judge Mary Horn.
Local black civil rights activist and longtime Denton resident Willie Hudspeth opposed the statue, which he called a reminder of the city’s segregated past and his bygone experiences in the area. Since 2000, he organized many protests on the square, favoring the monument’s removal. Following the committee’s recommendations last week, Hudspeth told NBC DFW: “We have the opportunity to get the wording right,” adding: “to actually start putting something up to heal my wounds.” Given that the statue will remain, Hudspeth said they have the opportunity for it to “be something that would help us come together.”
In 2015, following the tragic Charleston, South Carolina church shooting, vandals defaced the Denton County monument, using red spray-paint to write: “This is racist.”
Denton is located approximately 40 miles north of Dallas where, last September, a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee experienced a very different destiny. Days after violence broke out at a Charlottesville, Virginia, protest last August, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, formed a 20-person appointed task force to meet over 90 days and advise city officials on whether or not to remove the city’s Confederate statues, which he called “dangerous totems” and “monuments of propaganda.” Even before the task force first met on August 31, Rawlings truncated their timeline.
Then, Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway pushed through a sudden resolution demanding the city remove all Confederate iconography, as reported by Breitbart Texas. It also diminished the task force’s role, only seeking suggestions from them on statue removal and downed monument storage costs. The city council passed the resolution on September 6.
Reportedly, while the council met, city workers already set up barricades around the Lee Park sculpture. Dallas police appeared on site, and a large crane was poised to pry the statue from the pedestal upon which it stood since 1936 when dedicated by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.
The removal of the Robert E. Lee statue was temporarily halted by a restraining order. A week later, Dallas officials unearthed the historical artifact. The local NBC affiliate polled viewers on their thoughts about the city removing the Lee statue. Seventy-seven percent of respondents voted against taking it down. Only 23 percent agreed.
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