A Dallas area history professor is leading the charge to erase references to the Confederacy, including a massive monument that has stood at the heart of the city since 1896.
Collin College professor Michael Phillips sent a letter to Dallas city officials this week demanding the removal of the Confederate War Memorial, which sits next to the convention center downtown, KHOU reports.
Phillips is working to collect signatures from local ministers, scholars and educators on a petition to remove the memorial and other Confederate monuments, as well as the renaming of Robert E. Lee Park and eight area schools named after Confederate generals.
“These are monuments that lie about history, and that’s why I’m interested in it,” Phillips said. “We want to go to the Dallas City Council, we want to go to the Dallas School Board and we want them to implement the suggestions we have.”
Phillips and his followers believe “these statues, these park names, are monumental propaganda.
“They don’t tell a complex story,” he said. “They don’t tell a fair story.”
Phillips alleges the memorials celebrate slavery and oppression.
Sons of Confederate Veterans believe Phillips doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
“That is a false narrative,” Lieutenant Commander John McCammon said, describing Phillips’ petition as an “attack on American veterans.”
“History should not be erased, good or bad,” McCammon said.
The anti-Confederacy crowd allege they’re not looking to destroy the city’s Confederate monuments, but rather relegate them to a museum where few will see them.
Dallas’ Confederate War Memorial was dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and currently resides in Pioneer Park Cemetery adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center and Pioneer Plaza.
The granite and marble structure features a 60-foot-tall pillar topped with a Confederate soldier. Surrounding the pillar are statues of Generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Albert Johnston, and President Jefferson Davis.
The city’s oldest outdoor sculpture was originally located at Old City Park but moved to Pioneer Park in 1961 to make way for a freeway, according to Wikipedia.
And while the effort to remove the memorial and erase other references to the Old South from Dallas’ public life are in the early stages, Mayor Mike Rawlings is already signaling that he’s on board with the move.
Like Phillips, Rawlings seems to think the memorials are all about slavery.
“Personally,” Rawlings told The Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland, “I’m careful about espousing my point of view too much but not ashamed to do it. Slavery was the greatest sin that America ever participated in and we need to appropriately own up to that and move beyond it.”
Rawlings said the “historical reminders” are “concerning.”
According to the Ragland:
Last week, Rawlings sent a letter to the Communities Foundation of Texas, beseeching the North Texas nonprofit to let one of its new partners, Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, put the Confederate monuments topic on its plate.
The foundation recently won a $1.75 million grant from the W.W. Kellogg Foundation for a three-year campaign to provide more racial equity and healing in a city divided by race on just about every front — from housing to jobs to public education and law enforcement.
In the letter, Rawlings described Confederate monuments in major U.S. cities as “one of the most pressing issues.”
“For many, these are understandably nothing more than tributes to slavery and racism,” he wrote to Communities Foundation of Texas CEO David Scullin. “Still, I have long felt that it is not my place as mayor to dictate how exactly we deal with this issue.”
The mayor contends the city should engage in “a broad and transparent community input process that includes thoughtful and civil discourse.”
Dallas TRHT officials sent a letter to Rawlings on Monday promising to “lift this conversation up to our community for their input as our process unfolds this fall.”
The push to purge the Old South from Dallas is only the latest in a nationwide effort to do the same that followed a racially motivated church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. Racist Dylann Roof, who liked to pose with the Confederate flag on Facebook, shot and killed nine parishioners of the city’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In the years since, South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse, and social justice warriors across the country have successfully petitioned to remove other Confederate symbols and names from public life.