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Muted fight over Arkansas Confederate symbols

By Associated Press

This article was published August 19, 2017 at 2:28 p.m.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas has dozens of monuments to the Confederacy, a city named after an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan and until recently was one of three states that honored Robert E. Lee on the same holiday as slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

But, if recent history is any guide, the re-evaluation of symbols of the Confederacy and slavery that's been renewed nationally by the deadly violence at a white nationalist protest in Virginia over the removal of a statue of Lee is unlikely to lead to the state removing any of its monuments. But it could at least prompt a look at other emblems.

The successful push this year to remove Lee from the King holiday demonstrates the challenges efforts for a more widespread re-evaluation could have. Similar efforts to give King his own holiday failed previously in the state Legislature and gained traction this year after Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson personally lobbied for the move, saying it was needed to unify the state and improve its image.

But, at the same time, Hutchinson said he wasn't calling for removal of Confederate monuments at the Capitol or elsewhere — a position he's repeated recently while at the same time condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists following the violence in Charlottesville.

"We should not start taking down monuments just because they remind us of an unpleasant past. Refusing to face our history by dismantling it is a mistake," Hutchinson said in a statement last week. "We should use our historical markers as teaching opportunities to provide greater leadership for the future. Part of the legislation I signed to separate the holidays of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert E. Lee was to use the history of the Civil War as a teaching opportunity for our students."

The King holiday fight followed other renewed looks at other symbols of slavery. The Little Rock City Board two years ago voted to rename the last remaining portion of Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard, in honor of one of the area's first black property owners. The majority of the street had been named Springer since the 1970s. Last year, the state Democratic Party decided remove slave-holding presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from its annual fundraising dinner. The event was instead named after former President Bill Clinton.

Plenty of other symbols still remain. Aside from dozens of local monuments, there are three Confederate monuments on the state Capitol grounds — and a law enacted this year requires legislative approval before a state panel can look at erecting or removing any Capitol display. In east Arkansas, Forrest City is named for Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early Klan leader, and one of Little Rock's schools — David O. Dodd Elementary — carries the name of a teenage spy for the Confederacy.

There's an effort already to remove at least one monument, a Confederate statue in Walmart's hometown of Bentonville. The city's mayor says he's received a petition to have the statue removed as well as numerous calls in support of it, but says the city isn't responsible for the statue. The monument honors Second Lt. James Berry and is located in the city's downtown square.

The state Democratic Party last week called for removing Confederate monuments from public grounds, saying they should be put in museums and privately owned spaces, but said there are no plans to formally propose their removal.

The next re-evaluation in the majority-Republican Legislature may focus on the state's flag instead of its monuments. Democratic Rep. Charles Blake says he plans to file a bill that would change state law so one of the stars on Arkansas' flag no longer represents the Confederacy. Blake filed similar legislation earlier this year, but did not run it. Under the proposal, the star would instead represent the Quapaw, Osage and Caddo tribes and the other native American nations that inhabited Arkansas before France or Spain exercised dominion. Blake said he plans to introduce the bill in the 2019 session, unless he can get it on the agenda for any special session called before then.

"It's something that's needed. .. That is something I am passionate about and believe needs to happen to make our state better," Blake said.


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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 total comments

Tigermule says... August 19, 2017 at 3:43 p.m.

Stirring the pot

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Kharma says... August 19, 2017 at 3:59 p.m.

I say tear down the national monuments to those notorious slavers Washington and Jefferson. You know, because of pc 'n sh•t.

Jefferson even personally bred one so, since she was a slave and therefore property, she was not competent to consent and ergo the breeding was rape. Jefferson was both a slaver and a rapist. Tear the b•tch down!

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LRDawg says... August 19, 2017 at 6:12 p.m.

Washington and Jefferson WON the Revolutionary war! Robert E. Lee got his butt kicked and surrendered. These men were nothing like Lee. Lee ran his mouth and got it shut.....he was a coward who surrendered! When you guys speak of Lee compare him to losers and quitters. Washington and Jefferson know nothing about losing or surrendering. They EARNED their statues the old fashioned way....WINNING! History says Lee never EARNED a we must tear them down to show the TRUE history of America. We don't celebrate losers....we condemn them!

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RBear says... August 19, 2017 at 6:35 p.m.

LRDawg, partially agree with you. But a few corrections. Jefferson never fought in the Revolutionary War. He was a statesman from VA, serving as a delegate to the 2nd and 3rd Continental Congress. While Lee led a rebellion against the Union, he was also a decent human being. He served in the Army, stationed in and around San Antonio at one point. His home was on on the banks of the San Antonio River and was a deacon at St. Mark's Episcopal, the same church LBJ and Lady Bird were married in.
After the war, he felt statues and monuments to the Confederacy were a bad idea and would continue the divide of the Union. He opposed them. I can only wonder what he would think of these efforts to retain the statues and monuments today, knowing what he wrote after the war. Apparently most who are opposing their removal have never really studied Lee.

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carpenterretired says... August 19, 2017 at 6:41 p.m.

Well folks as Arkansas is full of Trump's rump people and Trump found John McCain to be a loser and not a war hero because he was captured and held as a POW out of consideration of Trump's great contempt for losers all these symbols of confederates losers should be deep sixed.

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information19 says... August 19, 2017 at 8:37 p.m.

Actually Kharma, slavery was addressed by Jefferson while he was leading the country to the Revolutionary War. But, he and many others acquiesced to the Southern states in order for the Declaration of Independence to be agreed upon by all 13 (future) states. History suggests that he treated all of those who lived on his lands with respect and dignity. He and Sally Hemmings had six children together ergo their "love story" is well documented. Might want to check that grandstanding because in fact kharma is a bitch....

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Kharma says... August 19, 2017 at 10:40 p.m.

So there were good slavers and bad slavers - got it. And Jefferson raped his property Sally at least six times "with respect and dignity" - got it. And slavers who were extant during the revolutionary war period are morally superior to those extant a few decades later - got it.

And leftists respect the legacy of Jefferson so much: "Last year, the state Democratic Party decided remove slave-holding presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from its annual fundraising dinner."

And info, you typical lefty attacking other posters - the only bitch posting here is you.

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drs01 says... August 20, 2017 at 7:39 a.m.

I can't understand all this pissing and moaning over a bunch of monuments. Blacks should rejoice and support their existence because they are symbols of their freedom. If Lee and company had not LOST the war, blacks would not be free. So the irony is that these statues and monuments can serve both sides of the argument.

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