NEW YORK — When rioters tore by way of the U.S. Capitol final month, a few of them gripping Confederate battle flags, they did not encounter a statue of probably the most well-known insurgent common, Robert E. Lee.
The Lee statue, which represented the state of Virginia as a part of the National Statuary Hall Collection in the Capitol for 111 years, had been eliminated simply weeks earlier than — certainly one of at least 160 public Confederate symbols taken down or moved from public areas in 2020, based on a brand new depend the Southern Poverty Law Center shared with The Associated Press forward of releasing it.
The Montgomery, Alabama-based legislation heart, which retains a uncooked depend of practically 2,100 statues, symbols, placards, buildings and public parks devoted to the Confederacy, plans to launch the most recent figures from its “Whose Heritage?” database on Tuesday. It has been monitoring a motion to take down the monuments since 2015, when a white supremacist entered a South Carolina church and killed a number of Black parishioners.
“These racist symbols solely serve to uphold revisionist historical past and the idea that white supremacy stays morally acceptable,” SPLC chief of employees Lecia Brooks mentioned in a press release. “This is why we consider that every one symbols of white supremacy ought to be faraway from public areas.”
Sometime after guests and vacationers are welcomed again to the U.S. Capitol, there might be a statue saluting Virginia’s Barbara Johns, a 16-year-old Black lady who staged a strike in 1951 over unequal circumstances at her segregated highschool in Farmville. Her actions led to court-ordered integration of public colleges throughout the U.S, by way of the landmark Supreme Court choice, Brown v. Board of Education.
Each state legislature can select as much as two representatives to honor in the Capitol’s assortment. In December, a state fee beneficial changing Lee’s statue with a statue of Johns. Supporters informed the AP that Virginia’s legislature has practically finalized her elevation alongside George Washington.
Joan Johns Cobbs, Barbara Johns’ youthful sister, is ecstatic in regards to the coming honor. She’s additionally glad it hadn’t occurred earlier than Jan. 6, when the Capitol was breached.
“You cannot think about how unhappy I used to be seeing what was taking place in the Capitol constructing,” Cobbs mentioned. “I used to be saying to myself, ‘Oh, my God. I’m sort of glad her statue wasn’t there already.’ I puzzled what would have occurred.”
Long seen as offensive to Black Americans, Lee’s Capitol statue wasn’t the one one representing a determine from the Lost Cause, a time period referring to a perception that preventing on the facet of slaveholders in the Civil War was simply and heroic. Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States of America earlier than changing into a U.S. senator from Mississippi, is certainly one of two figures representing that state in the Capitol.
The SPLC says there are 704 Confederate monuments nonetheless standing throughout the U.S. And taking a few of them down could also be tough, significantly in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee — states the place lawmakers have enacted insurance policies defending these monuments.
The motion to take away these symbols from public areas turned a part of the nationwide looking on racial injustice following the May loss of life of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into his neck for a number of minutes. Although activists have referred to as for reducing Confederate flags and taking down monuments for many years, a broader push was sparked after a white supremacist gunned down 9 Black parishioners throughout a June 2015 Bible examine assembly at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Exposing kids to something that falsely promotes the concept of white superiority and Black inferiority is dehumanizing,” Brooks of the SPLC mentioned in her assertion.
That’s why the respect for Johns could not come at a greater time, mentioned Cameron Patterson, government director of the Robert Russa Moton Museum, a caretaker of Johns’ legacy.
Johns moved from New York City to reside along with her grandmother in Virginia’s Prince Edward County throughout World War II. She attended Moton High School in Farmville the place, based on her memoir, the segregated faculty had poor services, lacked science laboratories and had no gymnasium.
On April 23, 1951, at age 16, Johns led her classmates in a strike towards the substandard circumstances at Moton High, drawing the eye of civil rights legal professionals on the NAACP. Attorneys filed a federal case that turned certainly one of 5 the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed in the Brown choice. In 1954, the excessive court docket declared segregation unconstitutional.
This yr will mark the seventieth anniversary since Johns’ protest. She died in 1991, at age 56.
“There’s actual recognition that her inclusion in the Statuary Hall assortment actually might be an excellent alternative for folk to extra totally come to know the Moton story in full,” Patterson mentioned. “So not solely are they studying about Barbara and who she was, they’re studying about her classmates. They’re studying about people who proceed to labor in this neighborhood, because it pertains to the battle for academic equality.”
Cobbs, Johns’ sister, agreed.
“I hope that younger individuals will see it as one thing that they might emulate,” she mentioned. “Being that younger, seeing an injustice, and deciding to do one thing about it’s fairly outstanding.”
Morrison is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity workforce. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison.
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