Detroit Metro Times
James E. Loewen’s Top 20 candidates for ‘toppling’
January 19, 2000
Edited by Curt Guyette
1. "Perhaps the most hated monument in America is the only one I know that overtly praises white supremacy — the obelisk celebrating the White League in New Orleans." The monument honors an 1874 uprising by white Democrats against the state’s racially mixed Republican government; the battle left 35 dead and nearly 80 wounded. Federal troops restored the Reconstruction government.
2. Shoulders stooped, hat doffed as if frozen in a friendly but deferential hello, this statue’s inscription reads: "Erected by the City of Natchitoches in Grateful Recognition of the Arduous and Faithful Service of the Good Darkies of Louisiana. …" Erected in 1927, "The Good Darky" has since been moved to the Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge. But Loewen criticizes the museum for not presenting any information about the statue’s history of symbolic meaning.
3. A number of statues and plaques across the country commemorate "the hiker," the archetypal American volunteer in the Spanish-American War. But in addition to other historic confusions, the markers routinely extend the three-month Spanish-American War to span 1898-1902. The plaques actually commemorate the Philippine War, lost in the haze of "historical amnesia."
4. "If any historical marker deserves toppling rather than just revision, first on the list is the marker for the ‘horrible Indian massacre’ of 1861 in Almo, Idaho, since the event it describes never happened." Still, Loewen argues that, properly explained in a museum, it could help illustrate the "climate of hostility toward Native Americans" in which it was created.
5-6. Of all the dubious statues to Christopher Columbus, Loewen singles out those in the capitols of California and Ohio for falsely claiming that Columbus proved the world was round.
7. For his service to "slavery and treason," Loewen would remove John C. Calhoun’s likenesses from "Marion Square in Charleston, the South Carolina State House, Calhoun College at Yale, the United States Capitol, and wherever he sits in a place of honor."
8. Monuments to Jefferson Davis, Loewen writes, were erected "only after his 1880 death, when white supremacy was locked in place all across America and the Lost Cause was no longer lost." Monuments need to give more information about the rise and fall of Davis’ popularity and to question such claims as that Davis "fought for state rights defended by the Constitution."
9. Stone Mountain in Georgia bills itself as the world’s largest relief sculpture — 90 feet high and 190 feet across — and depicts Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson. "Surely … those who run it can find a way to tell every visitor about the connections between the Confederacy and all three incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan."
10. Tennessee’s Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest has more statues and plaques (36) than anyone else in any other state. None mentions his later role as the KKK’s first national leader.
11. "Author Poet Scholar Soldier Philanthropist Philosopher Jurist Orator" reads the plaque to Confederate Gen. Albert Pike in Judiciary Square in Washington, D.C. No mention of his role as a key Klan leader or what Loewen calls a disgraceful battlefield record.
12, The only person executed for war crimes after the Civil War was Confederate Capt. Henry Wirz, head of the notorious POW camp at Andersonville, Ga. He is honored with an obelisk in Andersonville.
13. Obelisks to faithful slaves and "Afro-Confederates" in Fort Mill, S.C., and elsewhere perpetuate myths about African-American support for slavery and the Confederacy.
14. Repeatedly toppled already, and finally removed from public view, Loewen would move to a museum — and fully explain — the statue of a Chicago policeman which commemorates 13 or more officers who died in the Haymarket Riot of 1886. "Eight labor organizers were charged with ‘conspiracy’ to commit the police murders" in what Loewen calls a travesty of justice; seven were executed.
15. A statue to former U.S. Sen. "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman stands in the South Carolina State Capitol. Loewen quotes the archsegregationist Tillman on the subject of African-American voting rights: "We have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate every last one of them. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it."
16. A statue to "Mississippi’s answer to Tillman" stands in the Mississippi State Capitol. That would be the late Sen. Theodore G. Bilbo. A Bilbo quote: "Don’t let a single nigger vote."
17. "The American Museum of Natural History in New York might leave Teddy Roosevelt where he sits on his horse, so long as he removes the African-American and the Native American who stand subserviently beneath him," writes Loewen.
18. Leander Perez, 50-year district judge in Palquemines Parish, La., ruled as a virtual dictator, writes Loewen. Since the virulently segregationist judge "cheated his white constituents as well as those residents he called ‘niggers,’" Loewen would recommend that all residents join together to get rid of the three plaques praising him.
19. As to "toppling" Dearborn’s Orville Hubbard, Loewen says: "Until Dearborn takes this step, it insults daily the people of color in the Detroit area by continuing to commemorate the man whose principal claim to fame is that he kept them out."
20. In 1998, Pueblo Indians and other supporters cut off the right foot of the Santa Fe statue of conquistador Juan de Onate; that made it a memorial, in turn, to such victims of Onate as two dozen Native Americans whose feet were so amputated as a sign of Spain’s imperial might. The statue has since been repaired, but Loewen argues that a public discussion and "re-maiming" would better serve our understanding of history.