The sheer prominence of public monuments bestows honor on those memorialized.
Even the most nondescript of markers implicitly suggest that those we are remembering were courageous or righteous or on the right side of history. Whether these monuments are towering statues or small plaques noting historical events isn’t the issue.
Such memorials must be able to withstand scrutiny decades later as we reconsider their relevance and meaning today.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy monument near 55th Street and Ward Parkway does not meet this standard. Erected to the “Loyal Women of the Old South,” the memorial’s purpose is to render noble the women who supported the Confederacy and the moral sin of slavery.
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The monument does not deserve such a place of distinction. And as cities across the nation wrestle with the complexities of commemorating the Confederacy, Kansas City should remove this homage to the Old South.
The modest 9-foot slab, flanked by stone benches, is unremarkable enough that many Kansas Citians likely are unaware of its existence, let alone its meaning.
A Prairie Village man requested this week that the parks department consider removing the monument.
Park board members should approach this issue thoughtfully, allowing for a public debate and a community conversation about the original intent of erecting the monument. The aim should not be to tear down all historical markers that can be linked in any way to the Confederacy or slaveholders. That’s a slippery slope that should be avoided.
But Kansas City should consider other ways to preserve our country’s complicated history. And this monument should be removed.
Perhaps the memorial to the “Loyal Women of the Old South” could find a new home in the 135-acre Confederate Memorial State Historic Site near Higginsville, where the remains of Confederate soldiers are buried. The site is maintained by the state’s park service and includes a restored chapel and other buildings.
Certainly, the role of women during the Civil War and their loyalties should be noted in the appropriate historical context. Their stories are an important chapter in our history books.
But that is not the same as providing them a public space of honor. As Peter J. Gogol noted in his letter to the park board, “there’s a difference between remembering and revering.”