Bye to the Confederacy, Hello to the United States of America
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: the Confederacy shouldn’t be celebrated in America, at all. The Confederate states willingly chose to secede from the Union as an armed insurrection against the United States. Why did they secede? Well, a primary reason was their commitment to the preservation of slavery.
There’s a way to remember history, but not praise all aspects of a nation’s past.
Take Germany, for example: they remember Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust, but do they glorify their former dictator and his army? No; in fact, they mourn over the deaths of millions of innocent people who were persecuted, hunted down, and slaughtered by Hitler and the Nazis.
And so, why do some Americans still grasp onto an outdated flag of an army who seceded from the United States and lost? Do they truly not understand the pain and message behind that flag?
Those Confederate monuments that the alt-right movement in Charlottesville wanted to guard so fervently are symbols of the past to celebrate fallen leaders of a failed army. In my mind, they were erected as symbols of white supremacy, a supremacy feeling groups use today to intimidate black and other individuals they see as “not-white”.
And so, what should happen to these Confederate monuments? The answer is simple: remove them from the soil that now heralds a United States that supports freedom for all. Place them in museums so visitors can learn of the horrors of the Civil War and slavery. Don’t glorify these men who fought for their right to continue enslaving an entire group of people to ensure their economic prosperity, built on the whip-lashed backs of these men and women. Instead, replace these statues with true patriots—real American heroes, who fought to unite a country that would NOT support that level of human degradation. Some of my choices would be Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Ida B. Wells.
“The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.”
Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick was a servant in Baltimore at the young age of eight. Soon, he realized of the connection between literacy and freedom. Utilizing his wit, he taught himself how to read and write on the streets of Baltimore. At 15, his slave-owner sent him to the Eastern Shore as a field hand, but he rebelled intensely. Frustrated by his unsuccessful escape attempt and education of other slaves, his slave-owner sent him back to Baltimore, where he met a free black woman by the name of Anna Murray. On September 3, 1833, he boarded a train disguised as a sailor—within 24 hours, he arrived at New York City and declared himself a free slave.
Then, he married Anna and moved to Massachusetts, adopting the last name of Douglass and starting a family. He traveled with the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society as an orator, using his words and wit to educate others about his personal experience of slavery. To avoid capture, he then sailed to England, where he stayed for two years and gave speeches. Abolitionists offered to pay for his freedom, and he agreed—he then returned to the United States as a legally free man. After, he embraced the women’s rights movement and assisted in helping those in the Underground Railroad. He used his intellect and kindness to help promote equality for minorities and women, and became a defining voice of a generation.
“I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can saw what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off track and I never lost a passenger.”
You may know her as the woman who will—hopefully—replace President Andrew Jackson’s face on the $20 bill. Also born a slave, Harriet Tubman faced brutal beatings as a field hand in Maryland. In 1849, she fled slavery, but not without a sacrifice: she left behind her family. Despite the bounty on her head, she wished to help others escape the barbaric bondage of slavery. And so, on 19 different occasions, she returned to the South to lead her family and hundreds of other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Not only did she serve her people then, but she also served as a spy, a scout, and a nurse during the Civil War.
After the war, she returned to New York, where she continued her mission of helping her people in any way she could. She is a true American hero that deserves to be remembered, admired, and celebrated.
Ida B. Wells
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
A daughter of slaves, Ida B. Wells was born in Mississippi in 1862. Although she received a bit of early schooling, tragedy hit her at 16: her parents and one of her siblings died of yellow fever, leaving her to care for her other siblings. As resourceful as ever, she became a teacher to support herself and her siblings.
One day changed her entire life. Despite buying a first-class train ticket, the train crew demanded her to move to the car for African-Americans. As principled as she was resourceful, she refused to move. As she was then forcibly removed from the train, she bit one of the men. Afterwards, she sued the railroad, winning a $500 settlement only for it to be overturned later by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Due to this experience of injustice, she decided to dedicate her time, energy, and pen to documenting racism and its toll on her people in the South.
She traveled, gathering information about lynchings for two months to write exposing such horrors. These editorials were published, and many stoked outrage, so much so that a mob stormed the office of her newspaper and threatened to have her killed. In 1893, Wells published the famed The Red Record, a personal examination of lynchings of African-Americans. Years later, she formed the National Association of Colored Women, began the first African-American kindergarten in her community and continually fought for women’s suffrage.
She became a symbol for women’s rights and freedom.
Which American heroes do you believe deserve a monument? Clara Barton? Sacajawea? The Men of Steel? Young-Oak Kim? Cathay Williams? There are hundreds of courageous and just men and women who deserve a monument in their honor—Confederate generals aren’t one of them.
I’d love to hear your choices and why.