A handful of descendants of Confederate Civil War leaders Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis are siding with those who believe monuments to their famous ancestors should be pulled down and moved to other settings, such as museums.
And a relative of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee says he would be fine with removing statues to his storied ancestor if it helps the country heal.
The director of a Mississippi estate that was Davis’ retirement home, meanwhile, has suggested that the monuments could be relocated there.
Criticism of Confederate monuments has been intensifying since Saturday, when a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent after white nationalists opposed to the city’s plan to remove a statue of Lee clashed with counter protesters.
President Donald Trump agrees with some in the South who say the monuments speak to America’s history and heritage; but opponents of such symbols believe they glorify a shameful era of slavery.
On Thursday, a great-great-grandson of Stonewall Jackson told The Associated Press that he believes the monument to his legendary Confederate ancestor, as well as others in Virginia’s capital of Richmond, were constructed as symbols of white supremacy and should be taken down.
“They were constructed to be markers of white supremacy. They were constructed to make black people fearful,” Jack Christian said. “I can only imagine what persons of color who have to walk and drive by those every morning think and feel.”
Christian told the AP that he used to be open to the idea that the statues on Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue — which memorialize southern Civil War leaders, including Jackson — might be acceptable if context were added to explain why they were built.
However, the racially charged violence in Charlottesville has shown that to be impossible, Christian said.
A descendant of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America, said he supports moving the statues to appropriate settings, such as museums.
Bertram Hayes-Davis told the AP on Thursday that he believes that “complete removal is wrong” and believes the best solution would be to put the statues “in a historic place where the entire story can be explained.”
Tom Payne says he knows the perfect place: Beauvoir, a privately run museum on 52 acres (20 hectares) in Biloxi, Mississippi, that once served as Davis’ retirement home. Payne, executive director of the museum, issued a statement Thursday offering to accept monuments that “any city or jurisdiction has decided to take down.”
Payne said he would hope for donations, but would consider raising funds to cover any costs of relocating the monuments. He said the monuments could serve an educational purpose for Beauvoir visitors while being displayed in gardens out of general public view.
Robert E. Lee V, an athletic director at The Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, the great-great-grandson of the Confederate general, said the family hates to see the statues be a source of division.
“If taking down the statues helps us not have days like Charlottesville, then we’re all for it,” Lee said. “Take ’em down tonight.”
Christian and his brother, Warren Christian, said in a letter to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney published by Slate on Wednesday that it is “long overdue” for the city to remove overt symbols of white racism and white supremacy. The men said they want to make clear that the statue — and their great-great-grandfather’s actions — do not represent them.
“While we are not ashamed of our great-great-grandfather, we are ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer,” the brothers and Richmond natives wrote. “We are ashamed of the monument.”
Michael Shoop, who wrote a book on the genealogy of the Jackson family, confirmed that the men are descendants of the Confederate general.
Christian said he would like to see the statues preserved after they are removed from public display. He said he has heard from one relative who said she agreed with the sentiments expressed in the letter.
Christian said he’s pleased the Richmond mayor has decided that the former capital of the Confederacy will consider removing or relocating its statues.
The mayor had previously said he thought the monuments should stay but have context added about what they represent and why they were built, but changed course after the events in Charlottesville, where white supremacists rallied after the city voted to remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Chaos erupted at the Charlottesville rally, which included neo-Nazis, skinheads, and Ku Klux Klan members, and is believed to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in a decade. They clashed violently with counterdemonstrators, and after authorities ordered the crowd to disperse, a car plowed into a group of marchers, killing a woman and injuring 19 people. Two state police troopers who had been monitoring the chaos were also killed when their helicopter crashed outside the city.
The events in Charlottesville have quickened the pace of the removal of Confederate monuments across the country. Four Confederacy-related monuments were hauled away on trucks under cover of darkness late Tuesday night and early Wednesday in Baltimore. In Birmingham, Alabama, a 52-foot-tall (15-meter) obelisk honoring Confederate soldiers and sailors was covered by wooden panels at the mayor’s order.
Associated Press writers Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; and Matt Barakat in McLean, Virginia, contributed to this report.