Arizona doesn’t immediately come up in discussions about the American Civil War, but the western state finds itself at the center of a new movement to remove Confederate monuments from their concrete and historical pedestals.
On June 5, representatives from the NAACP, Black Lives Matter and other local organizations held a press conference in Phoenix at the office of The Arizona Informant, a historically Black publication, urging Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to remove six monuments honoring Confederate soldiers.
Reginald Walton of Black Lives Matter said those who fought for the Confederate cause did not represent the values of America and thus are unworthy of such honors.
“To have a monument that honors the institution of slavery, it’s honoring terrorism on this land,” Walton said. “We firmly ask Gov. Ducey to use his governmental powers that are given to him.”
Ducey has given no public indication as to how he plans to address the matter.
While most of the battles of the Civil War were fought in the South, on April 15, 1862, what is now southern Arizona was the site of the western-most conflict in the war involving fatalities.
A renewed national effort to rid communities of monuments, flags and other symbols honoring the Confederacy began when leaders in South Carolina successfully called on state lawmakers to remove a Confederate flag on state grounds following the shooting of nine church members by a white supremacist in Charleston.
In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently led an effort to remove four Confederate-related monuments in the city. In May, in a much-lauded speech on race and history, Landrieu said such monuments were erected to mask the pro-slavery agenda of the Confederacy.
“The historic record is clear, the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause,” he said. “This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.”
Roy Tatem, East Valley NAACP president, told The Arizona Republic that he was hopeful Arizona would respond positively to the groups’ appeal.
“To see Louisiana dismantling their elaborate Confederate monuments, to see Baltimore entertaining removing Confederate monuments, to see South Carolina finally removing the Confederate flag from its state capitol … We think that our chances are very good,” Tatem said. “If Arizona wants to be a leader, we believe Arizona will follow suit.”