Group says Confederate monuments should stay in place, but more statues of Black leaders should be added

Unity Project of Jacksonville is trying to compromise on divisive issue

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One group is hoping to end the ongoing debate over Confederate monuments with a compromise.

As some groups push to take the monuments down, a group called the Unity Project of Jacksonville is asking city leaders to install more monuments and keep the remaining Confederate monuments in place.

They want to add monuments that give a better representation of Jacksonville’s history including markers that detail the slave trade and honor Black leaders.

But that idea isn’t going over well with everyone.

This comes at the same time a recent UNF poll showed a slight majority of people in the city support keeping the Confederate monuments in place.

There has been some progress by the city in removing Confederate monuments. One monument was removed at James Weldon Johnson Park, but some still remain and the debate continues on what to do about it.

Blake Harper is the lead organizer of the Unity Project. He thinks it would satisfy both sides of the polarizing debate to contextualize history in the South with respect to African Americans and women. He wants to put up even more monuments and displays that represent those groups.

“We have to honor all of our history. We have to recognize, protect all of our history,” he said.

Harper spoke Tuesday night at Jacksonville City Council and pointed to the recently released UNF survey that shows 51% of residents either strongly or somewhat oppose removing Confederate monuments to 45% who want them gone. (The margin of sampling error for the poll is +/- 4.0 percentage points)

“We wanted to add a James Weldon Johnson statue in front of city hall. Another thing is erect as stone edifice at Market and Forsyth [streets] recognizing that slaves were traded there,” Harper said.

But opponents who have been continually pushing for the removal of Confederate monuments said Harper’s idea isn’t a solution.

Kimberly Allen is with the group 904ward and said to keep the Confederate statues up in any fashion is highly offensive to many people who live in Jacksonville.

“For the activist community out there every week saying we need to take these down it is a mission. A life mission to have them removed. But I also think it is difficult for the citizens who drive by it and see what it represents every day. It’s very difficult to think you belong in this city where these things are allowed to remain,” said Allen, CEO of 904ward.

Harper said his group had been making progress in their push for their idea but when there were anti-semitic messages displayed publicly above the Jacksonville Jaguars game and in other parts of downtown, he said it re-ignited the debate and caused steep divisions within the city.

About the Author:

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.