20 Statues Honoring Confederates With Dishonorable Stories

Published August 17, 2017
Updated August 18, 2017

Meet the men memorialized by the Confederate monuments.

Joseph Shelby Statue
William Walker Monument
Patrick Cleburne Statue
Raphael Semmes Statue Monument
20 Statues Honoring Confederates With Dishonorable Stories
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It's safe to say that you've probably noticed all of the hullabaloo over Confederate monuments lately.

After this past weekend's Charlottesville riot, during which a white supremacist killed a young woman, Donald Trump condemned the violence on "many sides," suggesting that white supremacy, blatant anti-Semitism, and neo-Nazism can somehow be placed on the same moral plane as anti-hate demonstrations.

The president also mourned the loss of Confederate monuments, as cries to remove them escalated.

Trump Statues Tweets

Trump has equated the men memorialized by these statues, men best known for trying to tear the country apart, with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, best known for founding it.

"There literally is no difference between the two men," an email from Trump's lawyer, leaked on Thursday and reported by The New York Times, reads. "You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington."

Arguing that all Americans who owned slaves and served in battle are "identical," historians say, is a "false equivalence," according to The New York Times.

“This is not about the personality of an individual and his or her flaws,” historian Annette Gordon-Reed told The New York Times. “This is about men who organized a system of government to maintain a system of slavery and to destroy the American union.”

Though most of us have now read thousands of articles on these monuments, it seems few people actually know the stories of the dead guys whose legacies many people are so passionate about protecting.

Above, you'll find a list of most of the Confederate men memorialized by statues that have either now been removed or are facing threats of removal. What you'll learn is that these men are remarkably unremarkable. In fact, most of these men are best known for leading losing battles.

They owned failed businesses, massacred free black people and Native Americans, and fought hard to tear the country in two. A few of them died fighting to protect their right to own other human beings (which almost all of them did).

The fight to remove their statues from our public spaces is not about destroying history — just as the decision to put them up in the first place was never about preserving it.

The vast majority of the monuments were built during the Jim Crow era as part of a campaign to justify the continued oppression of black Americans.

As hundreds of black people were lynched and denied civil rights, these structures were part of a "Lost Cause" movement to repaint the Civil War as a noble, honorable, and Christian struggle that had more to do with protecting a culture than enslaving a race.

"While Confederate monuments did honor their white heroes, they did not always rely on the true history of what took place between 1861 and 1865," history professor Karen L. Cox wrote. "Nor was that their intent. Rather, they served to rehabilitate white manhood — not as the losers of a war, but, as the monument in Charlotte, states, preservers of “the Anglo Saxon civilization of the South.”

The statues were built to validate feelings of white superiority. If you don't believe that, check out the accomplishments of the men to whom they pay tribute.

There are manatees who are more impressive.

After this look at Confederate monuments, learn how Hitler and the Nazi party convinced Germany to vote for facism. Then, read about the time that Trump's dad was arrested at a KKK rally.

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John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.