For years there was a long-running struggle in Charlottesville, Virginia, to remove a 26-foot-high statue of Robert E. Lee from a local park. On August 12, 2017, during a Unite the Right rally, clashes broke out between supporters of the statue, who marched under Confederate flags, and peaceful counter-protesters. During the rally, counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others were injured when a car was deliberately driven into the crowd. That statue is one of 1,700 Confederate monuments in the U.S.
In the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, demands to remove Confederate statues and other symbols has grown rapidly.
Some recent attempts at cleansing our body politic of the Confederacy have been half-hearted and opportunistic. For example, a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis stood for generations in the Kentucky state capital of Frankfort. In June it was removed with much fanfare with Gov. Andy Beshear standing front and center. What happened to it? Was it taken to a dump? No. It was simply given a new home at the state historic site where Davis was born.
On the other hand, a statue of Confederate general Albert Pike was burned to the ground by protestors in Washington DC on Juneteenth.
Out west, the University of Nevada Las Vegas removed its Hey Reb statue and several thousand people signed a petition calling for the further action--the retirement of the school's Johnny Reb mascot.
Following a petition campaign that garnered over 30,000 signatures, the Montgomery, Alabama school board voted on July 12 to change the names of three high schools named after Confederate leaders. On June 3, Jefferson Davis's birthday (a state holiday), protestors removed the statue of Robert E. Lee from in front of the high school that was named for him. The statue faced north, supposedly to be on the lookout for enemies.
The nickname for the teams of Quartz Hill High School in the Antelope Valley in Southern California was, until very recently, the Rebels. It's been changed. After 56 years, supported by 5400 signatures on a petition, Quartz Hill also ditched its Johnny Rebel mascot. The school used to hand out Confederate flags at games and assemblies. Just a harmless cultural relic? It was no coincidence that the Department of Justice issued a finding that local officials had worked to drive blacks out of public housing in the Quartz Hill area.