Removing Signs of The Confederacy in Forest Park

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Fox2 News . Not for anything having to do with cardiology but because I randomly stumbled upon the City of St. Louis taking down a street sign.

This was no ordinary street sign.

It was associated with the small strip of road that runs adjacent to the Confederate Memorial that sits in Forest Park (America’s #1 Urban Park!)

Workman removing the Confederate Drive sign. He left the Cricket Road sign. Confederate Drive sign replaced by nothing.

The Forest Park Confederate Memorial became part of a national discussion after long-time St. Louis Mayor, Francis Slay, writing in his blog in 2015, proposed a a committee for reappraisal of the statue:

 

Their charge would be to recommend whether, with the benefit of a longer view of history, the monument is appropriately situated in Forest Park – the place where the World was asked to meet and experience St. Louis at its best and most sublime — or whether it should be relocated to a more appropriate setting.

They also should address whether the monument represents a peculiar memorial to what euphemistically was referred to in the American South as a “peculiar institution” – slavery-and wherever ultimately situated, whether the monument should be accompanied by a description of the reality and brutality of slavery, over which the war was waged, including in this city, and the bitter badges of slavery, Jim Crow and de facto discrimination and segregation, that are its continuing legacy.

I would ask the commission, also, to reappraise the name “Confederate Drive,” the Forest Park thoroughfare on which the monument is situated. They might consider whether “Freedom” or “Justice” would be more fitting.

Missouri was a deeply divided border state during the Civil War, pitting neighbors and kin against one another. As St. Louis was a Union stronghold, it is not surprising that even 50 years after the war ended, the erection of the Confederate Memorial was controversial. It was dedicated in December 1914 after the Ladies’ Confederate Monument Association spent 15 years raising $23,000 for its construction. To avoid provoking further antagonism to the project, the Association declared that the design they would choose could not depict any figure of a Confederate soldier or object of modern warfare. The resulting monument features a 32-foot-high granite shaft with a low relief figure of “The Angel of the Spirit of the Confederacy.” Below is a bronze group, sculpted by George Julian Zolnay, depicting the response of the South to this spirit as a family sends a youth off to war. Of Hungarian birth, Zolnay had come to St. Louis as director of the art department for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and remained here for some years afterward, teaching at Washington University and the Art Academy in University City. Choosing Zolnay’s model over two other submissions caused another battle when one of the losers, Frederick Ruckstull, wrote to the committee demanding that Zolnay’s design be eliminated, as the male figure too closely depicted a soldier. Calling the letter “contemptible,” Zolnay shot back that Ruckstull’s allegorical group, featuring figures of Glory, History, Poetry and Sorrow, was “suitable for a wedding cake.” On the back of the shaft, designed by William Trueblood, is a tribute “To the Memory of the Soldiers and Sailors of the Southern Confederacy,” written by St. Louis minister Robert Catlett Cave, who had served as a Confederate soldier from Virginia. Beneath that is a quotation by Robert E. Lee: “We had sacred principles to maintain and rights to defend for which we were duty bound to do our best, even if we perished in the endeavor.”
I rode to Forest Park and asked in the visitor center where the confederate memorial was. When I arrived it was surrounded by this temporary fence, erected in the morning, presumably to protect workmen from pro-statue protestors.

 

 

It looks like the committee delivered their report in December , 2015 and it can be found here. They indicate their charge was to assess how best to get rid of the statue, not really to “reappraise” it.

They asked for proposals from various museums/historic organizations for moving the statue and received no satisfactory proposals. . The cost of moving the statue to another site was estimated at 268,000$ and moving it to storage at 122,000$.

A new mayor of St. Louis,  Lydia Krewson, was elected last November and she has vowed to move the statue.

Apparently, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to remove the street sign than the statue.

Don’t expect any brilliant insights into this controversy from my interview with Fox2 News.  Before I’m ready to make any public pronouncement on an issue I require hours and hours of research and clearly I have no expertise or background that would qualify me to pontificate on the fate of this statue.

Since then, I’ve thought about it and read more and hope to share some observations down the line.

-ACP

Since the interview aired it seems to have gone viral around St. Luke’s hospital with many marveling at my odd “beekeeper’s” hat and others impressed by my handling of a random cyclist’s yelled comments.

This is the link to the Fox 2 News Interview

 

6 thoughts on “Removing Signs of The Confederacy in Forest Park”

  1. Dr. Pearson-
    You are ambivalent, I think, about wearing a helmet while cycling. Nevertheless, there is an option for a beekeeper-type hat that can be worn with a bike helmet. Trade name is Da Brim. Give it a Google. I am a redhead, and so have also eschewed vanity in an effort to stave off melanoma, and am also often laughed at in my beekeeper attire. Da Brim is really over-the-top, goody, but an effective solution for combining helmet and shade.
    Jeanne Doornbos

    1. Jeanne,
      Thanks for the excellent tip on Da Brim! I’m not ambivalent about helmets, I simply won’t wear them and I think mandating their wearing discourages individuals from engaging in a healthy activity (as I’ve written about a few times on this site).
      Your comments make me realize that sun protection is another factor. For anyone concerned about facial/neck sun exposure (and I’m obviously firmly in that category) who believes in bike helmets (I don’t) and is not worried about looking goofy (I’m not obviously) Da Brim looks like a marvelous solution.

  2. I really wish more people were like you in not offering a solid opinion without being educated fully on an issue. I am one of those that is fully educated on the issue. The statue should be treated the way germans treated Nazi statues. Any argument otherwise is foolish. There were plenty of germans that had nazi relatives. I am white BTW. I could write a lot more about it if people are interested but I tried to be concise.

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