Earlier this year, I wrote in this space about the
Confederate Monument, the 32-foot-tall granite shaft with bronze sculpture erected
in a city park a century ago.
The monument sought to glorify the Confederate cause. It
is well understood by mainstream historians to be part of a highly organized,
carefully calculated, multi-generational movement – led mainly by women of the
Confederacy – that worked against social equality and political enfranchisement
of former slaves. It sought to reshape
national memory about the Civil War, and to pretend the war had been waged by
the Confederacy for noble purposes.
I asked whether Forest Park, St. Louis' most heavily-used
community gathering place, is the most appropriate place for such a monument. I
asked that a committee be formed to advise me and you on realistic options for
moving the monument.
My question: could the monument be moved to better
promote public understanding of its place and purpose in history?
Here's how I plan to go about getting an answer: a
committee has been formed and this week approved a Request for Proposals that
will be sent to 12 institutions representing several potential sites that would
be suitable places for the Confederate Monument.
At the top of the list is the Missouri Civil War Museum
at Jefferson Barracks -- an institution well situated to tell hard truths --
and the whole truth -- about the monument in our social, political and military
Several major universities – Saint Louis University,
University of Missouri-St. Louis, Washington University, and Webster University
– also will be invited to submit proposals. Their institutional histories, strong
faculties, and accessible campuses make them strong choices to provide a place
for the Confederate Monument and to tell its story.
The committee will
also be soliciting proposals from Bellefontaine and Calvary Cemeteries. Both
have deep Civil War connections. Both increasingly have become places where
this community learns its history.
The committee will ask Laumeier Sculpture Park and City Museum to
consider bringing to bear their unique teaching skills in putting sculptural
pieces in perspective (and their experience in moving and displaying big
things) to consider lending their expertise.
And, in the end, logistics and cost may limit possible
solutions. The monument is made up of more than a dozen pieces. The largest
weighs an estimated 75,000 pounds. That means heavy trucks, special permits,
and equipment to excavate, transport and reconstruct the monument, exercises
whose expected total costs would be measured in the six figures.
Bridget Flood, Executive Director of the Incarnate Word
Foundation, is chairperson. The other committee members are David Felling, Ron Jackson,
Stuart Symington, Jr. and Tony Thompson.
Greg Hayes, St. Louis Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry,
is staffing the Committee, along with Eddie Roth, St. Louis Director of Human
Services, who is serving as its secretary.
I will keep you updated as the committee advances and
completes its work.