Almost 50 Confederate memorials were moved, renamed, or taken down in 2021 while over 30 schools were renamed or closed in 2021 according to a new report.
“In 2021, at least 49 living memorials were removed, relocated, or renamed, but only 16 monuments came down,” a report from the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center found. “In 2021, 33 schools were renamed or closed. The year before, 20 schools were renamed.”
The report noted that there were still about 723 Confederate monuments around the country, mostly located in the South, still standing. In addition to monuments, there are 741 roads named after Confederates, 10 military bases, six bridges, and six bodies of water as well.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee has the most memorials (235), while Confederate President Jefferson Davis has 144, and commander Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson had 121.
The annual “Who’s Heritage?” report, however, noted that most Confederate memorials don’t focus on any particular person.
Investigators support taking down the memorials saying that “abolishing these memorials is a first and essential step in combating the white supremacy values of the Confederacy…”
The number of removed Confederate monuments is down from 2020, when about 94 monuments were taken down.
Last September, the largest Confederate statue in the U.S., a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, was removed after a legal battle. The move was championed by then Governor Ralph Northam (D).
“Yes, that statue has been there for a long time,” Northam said at the time. “But it was wrong then, and it is wrong now. So we’re taking it down. I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe that when we learn more, we can do more.”
Just this past week, work started in Richmond to move the pedestals that held statues of Lee, Davis, Jackson, J.E.B. Stewart, and other Confederates. The project is estimated to cost about $1.5 million.
One of Richmond’s statues, that of General A.P. Hill is also being removed, though only after negotiations with descendants as Hill was buried under his monument. Pavement will replace Hill’s former monument and grave, now located at a traffic circle, once removal is complete.
It was also reported in December that the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, will be melted down and made into a new art piece by an African American heritage organization following a 4-0 vote of the city council to donate the monument.
While often seen as a national issue, the fate of the monuments is often decided at the local level and still is quite contentious in some areas, where legal battles often ensue.
Last November, Matthews and Middlesex counties in Virginia voted to keep their Confederate memorials by margins of 80% and 70% respectively. Matthews voted to maintain their Soldiers & Sailors Monument and Middlesex voted to keep the Civil War monument at the courthouse.
According to exit polling done by CNN, 85% of those who voted for Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears wanted to keep the monuments, while 88% of those who voted for Democrat Hala Ayala wanted to take down the monuments.
In Covington, Georgia, a battle over that city’s Confederate memorial continues, with a judge ordering the statue to not be removed as a legal battle over its future has not finished.