In a sign of changing times, Kentucky tears down a statue

The University of Louisville decided this week to take down a Confederate monument that many say was a reminder of a racist past.

Dylan Lovan/AP Photo
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer speaks in front of the Confederate monument near the University of Louisville with university President James Ramsey, left, in Louisville, Ky., on Friday. The Confederate monument capped with a statue of Jefferson Davis will be removed from a spot near the University of Louisville campus where it has stood since 1895.

After facing decades of protest against a statue commemorating Confederate Civil War soldiers, the University of Louisville, Kentucky, announced Friday that the monument would be moved

Although Kentucky, the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, was never an official part of the Confederate States of America, many Kentuckians did fight for the Confederate side during the Civil War. The monument, which depicts a Confederate soldier, honors these men.

The announcement that the statue would be removed delighted many who have spent years advocating for its removal.

"I can't tell you how happy I am," said University of Louisville professor Ricky Jones after Friday’s announcement. "I think this statue being on the campus is somewhat akin to flying the Confederate flag over the [university's] administration building."

Jones wrote an impassioned critique of the monument last week in Louisville's Courier-Journal, saying that such an antiquated reminder of racism has no place on a modern college campus.

“It is a celebration of backwardness,” Jones wrote. “It now sits at the heart of the school and is inhibiting its circulation.”

The statue was donated to the school in 1895 by the Kentucky Women’s Monument Association. Since that time, the school has grown to surround the statue.

Although there was initially confusion over who owned the statue, the city or the school, finally, the school determined that it was time for the statue to go.

"It's time for us to move this monument to a more appropriate place," said University of Louisville President James Ramsay.

Where that place is, however, remains uncertain. While there are plans for the statue to be disassembled and cleaned, it is unclear what will happen to it next.

The decision by the University of Louisville to remove this statue follows a long line of decisions by other institutions to remove similar symbols of the Confederacy, symbols that many Americans are increasingly viewing as remnants of a past we could do without.

The shock of the brutal killings of nine parishioners at the Emanuel AME baptist church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, last June, prompted even former Confederate flag defenders such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to call for the removal of the flag.

When debate reached a peak over the flag’s removal in the South Carolina legislature, Jenny Horne, a descendant of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis, stepped into the fray and declared that it was time for the flag to go.

"I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful, such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday,” she said.

Passionate calls for the removal of symbols that many see as racist are not just restricted to the South.

One of the United States’ oldest and best known institutions of higher learning, Harvard University, recently abandoned the Law School crest it used in honor of Isaac Royall, a slaveholder who endowed the first law professorship hundreds of years ago. 

And despite recent controversies, the state of Kentucky continues to honor both President Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis (another native son) in its capitol building.

Yet although some obstacles remain, many say that the changes that are occurring are welcome ones.

As University of Louisville professor Ricky Jones wrote last week, “I say now, 'Mr. Fischer and Mr. Ramsey, tear down this statue!' It is way past due.”

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