While President Trump has lamented the loss of the so-called “beautiful statues” paying homage to the Confederacy, it turns out that the monuments aren’t as old as they may appear. A Southern Poverty Law Center report revisited Sunday morning by NPR raised questions over the intent behind the creation of the statues and who they’re really meant to honor.
The timeline goes like this: rather than being erected in the wake of the Civil War, most of the monuments went up during times of heightened racial tension, segregation and deprivation of civil rights. The start of the 1900s, around the time the NAACP was founded, saw by far the most new statues while another spike in building was seen from the 1950s into the ’60s, especially regarding the naming of schools, according to the SPLC report.
“These statues were meant to create legitimate garb for white supremacy,” said Jane Grossman of the American Historical Association, speaking to NPR. “Why would you put a statue of Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson in 1948 in Baltimore?”
The monuments have come under fire after a handful of states have begun to reconsider whether to keep the symbols representing America’s slaveholding past. While the president has argued against the removal of statues around the country, the numbers don’t lie. The SLPC’s report revealed that, more likely than being tributes to history, the monuments served to further divide the country during contentious times, functioning as a reclamation of white power.