Group seeks removal of Jacksonville's Confederate statues

Weeks after Orlando and New Orleans took down Confederate statues, the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition has started a petition drive to remove what they call symbols of racism around the city of Jacksonville.

Wells Todd, a member of the coalition, calls the campaign dedicated to removing what the group calls symbols of white supremacy #TakeEmDownJax.

“This hate, we have to confront it. If we don’t, it won't go away," Todd said.

One of the statues the group is targeting is the one in the center of Hemming Park featuring a bronze Confederate soldier, who is depicted facing south and standing at ease with his hand resting on his musket. 

The 60-foot-tall granite column has been there for nearly 120 years. It’s the site of a monument to Women of the Confederacy that was dedicated in 1915 and a historical marker placed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to commemorate the May 1914 national reunion of Confederate veterans that took place in Jacksonville.

There are others in parks and public areas around the city, including a tribute to the women of the Confederacy, in Confederate Park and the Gen. Joseph Finnegan grave monument in Jacksonville's Old City Cemetery.

The petition also targets area schools named after Confederate commanders: Robert E. Lee High School, Jefferson Davis Middle School, Kirby Smith Middle School and J.E.B Stewart Middle School.

People in downtown Jacksonville Friday had mixed reactions.

"I think it should be taken out because it is offensive," said Jacksonville resident Andrea Gorley. "By all means, I am with no statues because it is offensive."

“I just think you got to remember that’s part of your history and you can't tear down all of your history," said Jacksonville resident Jeff Evans. "I know they’ve done it in New Orleans and I don’t endorse that, but I just think we need to leave it alone and move forward and be better people than they were back then."

Todd has heard the argument that these monuments are a part of southern history, but said are brutal reminders of the past. 

"Taking these monuments and statues down, they don’t erase history," Todd said. "They correct the history, because these statues glorify and romanticize slavery."

In March, the Jacksonville City Council Neighborhoods Committee asked the full council to withdraw a bill to designate Hemming Park’s confederate monument as a historical landmark.

Council President Lori Boyer, who called for the withdrawal, told the Daily Record and Financial News that she would like to see a bill introduced that would address the interests of historic preservation of the Hemming Park statue on one side, and on the other side, respect those in the community who see the statue as memorializing slavery in the Confederate South.

While some governments have removed Civil War statues, Hillsborough County voted this week to keep one erected 1911 standing outside a county administrative building.

About the Author: