To the six white members of the Hamilton County Commission who voted against moving A.P. Stewart's confederate bust to a more appropriate and private place: Shame on you.
The vote was 6-2. Six white men, two black men.
Commission Chairman Randy Fairbanks and members Chester Bankston, Tim Boyd, Jim Fields, Joe Graham and Greg Martin voted against removing the statue that Commissioner Greg Beck last week sought to remove. Beck's resolution was backed by Commissioner Warren Mackey. The commission's only woman, also white, was not present for the vote.
Those voting for the status quo made the usual excuses, including that Stewart was more than the uniform he wore. He helped plan and create the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park to help bring healing after the Civil War and he was not a slave owner.
But they didn't see irony in the fact that he's not depicted on the Courthouse grounds in civilian clothing, nor recognized for his park work. They didn't question why his bust is not accompanied by a matching bronze work of the former Union general who was Stewart's partner in that park work.
No, A.P. Stewart is garbed in his Confederate uniform and he is honored with a plaque that pays homage to nothing more than his four years of treasonous fighting against the United States of America for a cause that sought to preserve slavery.
There was a reason for the misrepresented history, and it was called the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy was founded in Nashville in 1894 as an organization of Southern white women whose express mission was instilling in Southern white youth a reverence for Confederate principles. The group expressly sought to build those children into "living monuments" who would grow up to defend states' rights and white supremacy, according to Karen L. Cox, professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the author of "Dixie's Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture."
Though the UDC is best known today for funding and organizing the placement of hundreds of Confederate statues and busts like that of A.P. Stewart (placed on our courthouse grounds in 1919 by the A.P. Stewart Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy), indoctrinating white children with what we should consider racism was its primary goal.
Cox, in a piece she penned this week for The New York Times, writes that Daughters members developed a multipronged approach to educating white children about the "truth" of the "War Between the States."
"They developed lesson plans for teachers, a number of whom were members of the organization. They placed pro-Confederate books in schools and public libraries, which they insisted students use when they competed in UDC-sponsored essay contests. They led students in the celebration of Robert E. Lee's life on his birthday and placed portraits of Confederate heroes, festooned with the battle flag, in classrooms across the South and even in some schools outside of the region. They also formed Children of the Confederacy chapters for boys and girls ages 6 to 16, intended to serve as a pipeline for membership in both the UDC and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a parallel organization."
In the children's groups, there were catechism drills, according to Cox.
"'What causes led to the War Between the States, between 1861 and 1865?' was a typical question. 'The disregard, on the part of the states of the North, for the rights of the Southern or slave-holding states' was the answer. 'What were these rights?' The answer was 'the right to regulate their own affairs and to hold slaves as property.' There were also questions and answers that led children to believe that slavery was a benevolent institution in which cruel masters were rare," Cox writes.
Daughters members also spread their myths to regular school texts, rewriting history to suit their slanted beliefs.
Laura Martin Rose, who wrote as Mrs. S.E.F. Rose, penned an influential school primer on the Ku Klux Klan, according to Cox. Rose lived in Mississippi, but was originally from Pulaski, Tenn., where the original Klan was founded, "and her correspondence with original Klansmen informed her publication. She was lauded by Confederate organizations for 'bringing the true history of this great organization to the young people of the Southland, our boys and girls of today who will be our citizens of tomorrow.'"
Cox notes that those "citizens of tomorrow" became people like Strom Thurmond and Birmingham's infamous commissioner of public safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor.
"They were also people like Byron De La Beckwith, who assassinated Medgar Evers in 1963 [and lived on Signal Mountain until he was tried and convicted in 1994 for Evers' murder]." Cox writes that Beckwith's aunt, Lucy Yerger, had been the president of the Mississippi Daughters of the Confederacy group and gave some of the most virulently racist speeches to come out of the organization.
So, Hamilton County commissioners, is this the group of sweet little old ladies you were thinking of when you voted to keep old A.P. at the courthouse door?
There is no room or excuse anymore for any of us — and especially you, county leaders — to hide the racism that begat the Stewart statue and others like it.
Old A.P. should be moved to stand guard and rest in peace at one of our Confederate cemeteries.