[…] The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) began to catalog Confederate symbols around the country, stating: “There was no comprehensive database of such symbols…In an effort to assist the efforts of local communities to re-examine these symbols, the SPLC launched a catalog to study them.”
There were two major periods during which the dedication of Confederate monuments and other symbols spiked: the first two decades of the 20th century and, later, the Civil Rights movement. As they explain:
[T]wo distinct periods saw a significant rise in the dedication of monuments and other symbols. The first began around 1900, amid the period in which states were enacting Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise the newly freed African Americans and re-segregate society. This spike lasted well into the 1920s, a period that saw a dramatic resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, which had been born in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.
The second spike began in the early 1950s and lasted through the 1960s, as the civil rights movement led to a backlash among segregationists. These two periods also coincided with the 50th and 100th anniversaries of the Civil War.
Take a look at the infographic. Note the massive cluster of dedications of monuments around the time the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was being formed, and the dedications’ continued persistence during the KKK’s resurgence. Check out the sudden rise in the dedication of schools, named in honor of Confederate soldiers, almost immediately following Brown v. Board of Education. Note that there were less dedications of Confederate symbols during race riots, even a significant dip during the Detroit uprising of 1943.
You can trace a clear spike in the dedication of Confederate monuments whenever black Americans organized in a concrete way; when they were made visibly vulnerable — such as in the instance of uprisings — the commitment to Confederate symbolism tapered off.
According to this data, it’s clear that once black Americans sought their own agency or publicly defended their rights, white supremacists and Confederate apologists became eager to crowd around these monuments in tender affection and homage, to espouse this history. The monuments had a purpose, newly reinstated again and again, to revive and cherish white history each time minorities, especially black people, made themselves visible. The common refrain in support of the Confederate flag (“heritage, not hate”) quickly dies on its own sword. There’s no pride, except for the kind rooted in a fear of white erasure.
After mining the data, it’s clear white panic is real.
The full article is at Hyperallergic, and it’s excellent, and necessary reading, as many people seem to not know the full history of these monuments to hate. Recommended reading.