A request to remove an 83-year-old monument on Ward Parkway honoring the “Loyal Women of the Old South” has come under review by the Kansas City Department of Parks and Recreation.
The request, from a Prairie Village man, was submitted to park board members Tuesday, department director Mark L. McHenry said Wednesday, amid nationwide debates regarding Confederate monuments being removed from public locations.
“I think in 2017 Kansas City shouldn’t be revering people who worked to try to maintain slavery,” said Peter J. Gogol, who wrote the board in a letter dated Monday. “Remembering the past is important, but there’s a difference between remembering and revering.”
The monument near 55th Street on the Ward Parkway median was a 1934 gift to the city by a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It originally stood in the Country Club Plaza but was relocated in 1958 to its present site, according to the parks department web site.
At the top of a 9-foot shaft is the Daughters of the Confederacy emblem with a wreath above the crossed flags of the Union and the Confederacy and the dates 61-65. Lower on the monument is inscribed the dedication: “In loving memory to the Loyal Women of the South.”
The pillar is flanked by two benches, with the word “Courage” on one and “Fortitude” on the other.
On Saturday, violence broke out and one woman died in Charlottesville, Va., at a protest against the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Since then, a group in Durham, N.C., toppled a Confederate statue and the city of Baltimore removed four Confederate monuments.
The Kansas City parks board said in a statement Wednesday: “The Board of Parks Commissioners is reviewing the message on the monument in the context of today’s moral perspectives and sensibilities and taking the public’s comments seriously, and all reasonable requests into consideration.”
Board member Dave Mecklenburg said the letter objecting to the Kansas City memorial was discussed at a premeeting of the park board Tuesday, when three of the five members were present.
Mecklenburg said the request would be discussed in more depth at another meeting, and he’s keeping an open mind, but he doesn’t want to “make a knee-jerk reaction.”
He noted that the memorial is for the Daughters of the Confederacy, which he said is different from a monument to a Civil War Confederate general.
“The women didn’t fight in the war,” Mecklenburg said. “It’s dedicated to the women who suffered during the war.”
Mecklenburg said he’s willing to have more discussion and hear views on the subject, but he also sees the parks as interactive, outdoor museums with all sorts of monuments to history, and he doesn’t want to make a hasty decision.
“If it’s terribly offensive to some people, we’re going to look at it,” he said.
Gogol, 35, is a stay-at-home father of two young daughters. He has lived in the area for 10 years. “Though we are not KCMO residents right now,” his letter noted, “we support the city with our income taxes, and love using its great public libraries and wonderful parks.”