Patrick Madden, WAMU, August 21, 2017
The violent clashes in Charlottesville have intensified the debate over whether cities should remove their Confederate statues. That’s especially true in Alexandria, Virginia, home to one of the most celebrated Confederate memorials: the “Appomattox” statue.
For years, leaders in this left-leaning city have struggled over what to do with the “Appomattox,” the seven-foot bronze statue that sits in the middle of a busy intersection in Old Town. It depicts an unarmed Confederate soldier, arms folded and looking down.
Last year, the council voted to relocate the statue, which is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, to a nearby museum. But that move can’t happen until the Republican-led state legislature in Richmond signs off, which no one expects anytime soon.
“This is an across-the-board campaign to wipe out anything to do with Confederate history,” says Jared Taylor, the founder of the American Renaissance, a white nationalist site based in Fairfax.
As the campaign to remove Confederate statues has gained traction across the South, white nationalist groups have emerged as the most vocal opponents.
“They were honorable men who fought in a cause they believed in,” says Taylor.
“To somehow decide that they were all wicked villains of history, because the Confederacy was based on slavery, that means George Washington, Andrew Jackson, nine of the first 11 presidents were all villains. Are we going to write them out of history?”
Taylor may represent a group with extreme views, but his comments on Confederate statues are not out of step with many in America, including President Trump, who echoed similar sentiments during a press conference earlier this month. A recent NPR poll found more than 60 percent of registered U.S. voters believe the statues shouldn’t be removed.
Justin Wilson, the vice mayor of Alexandria, says a few years ago, the city formed a task force to take stock of all the schools and streets named after Confederate leaders.
The group found more than 30 or so streets that are likely named after Confederate figures. A city law was passed in 1963 that required every new street running north and south be named after a Confederate leader. That wasn’t revoked until two years ago.