The Jan. 2 op-ed, “How history shapes Charleston’s landscape of memory,” must be answered. The writer condemns Charleston’s Confederate memorials as “Jim Crow monuments because their creation coincided with the restoration of white supremacy.”
He suggests that there was some sort of racialist motive for the creation of the memorials. He offers no evidence or a single quote from any of those who erected these tokens of memory to support this claim, while ignoring the reasons they did express for creating them.
These statues and inscriptions were and are tributes to Charleston’s dead heroes who defended this city over four years of bombardment and attack by an invading army. We owe them an incalculable debt. Look around you. Our beautiful city is their gift to us. Had they not fended off federal forces, Charleston would have shared the fate of Columbia.
The monuments were erected between 1896 and 1932. That was, indeed, a time of white supremacy. But does the writer seriously think the monuments could have been erected earlier during the 11 years of armed federal occupation after the war, or during the decades of impoverishment that followed?
They were built as the city was just emerging from these conditions and citizen groups were financially able to memorialize our forebears. The monuments were created for the reasons their builders clearly expressed: to remember and honor those who had given their all to defend us. What kind of a people would we be if we failed to remember and honor them today?
Michael S. Kogan, Ph.D.