The thieves say they will only return the 128-year-old stone chair if a historic Confederate association agrees to fly a Black rights banner outside their headquarters.
Since 1893, a three-foot stone chair memorializing the Confederacy has stood at Confederate Circle in Selma, Alabama’s Old Live Oak Cemetery. Last month, however, it disappeared.
The stone chair, which weighs about several hundred pounds, was dedicated to former Confederacy President Jefferson Davis and was first discovered missing sometime between midnight and 3 a.m. during the 44th annual Selma Pilgrimage on March 19.
The pilgrimage is a yearly festival that celebrates Selma’s antebellum architecture and features tours led by white women in hoop skirts.
Now, an anti-racist action group known as “White Lies Matter” has taken responsibility for the theft through an email to the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), a historic association dedicated to honoring Confederate soldiers, and which purchased the property surrounding Confederate Circle from the Selma City Council in 2011.
White Lies Matter is also threatening to turn the chair into a toilet unless the UDC agrees to hang a banner starting at 1 p.m. on April 9 outside of their headquarters in Virginia for 24 hours.
The date marks the 156th anniversary of when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union at Appomattox, Virginia, thus ending the American Civil War and signifying an end to slavery in the southern states.
“Failure to do so will result in the monument, an ornate stone chair, immediately being turned into a toilet,” wrote White Lies Matter in the email. “If they do display the banner, not only will we return the chair intact, but we will clean it to boot.”
The banner in question was mailed to the UDC alongside a flyer reiterating the group’s demands. That document was styled to appear aesthetically vintage, like an old “Wanted” poster from the Wild West.
As for the banner itself, it bears the following quote from Black revolutionary Assata Shakur:
“The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives.”
Shakur was a member of the Black Liberation Army, which was composed of freedom fighters from the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Afrika. She called for armed liberation of all Black Americans and was convicted of murder in 1977 after shooting a police officer in New Jersey. She escaped prison in 1979.
She remains wanted by the FBI but lives freely in Cuba after being granted political asylum there. It appears the anti-racist group believes that Shakur’s struggles and the struggles of Black Americans against systemic racism are perfectly encapsulated by monuments like the Jefferson Davis chair.
“Like most Confederate monuments, it exists to remind those who’s [sic] freedom had to be purchased in blood, that there still exists a portion of our country that is more than willing to continue to spill blood to avoid paying that debt down,” the email said.
The Jefferson Davis chair, valued at around $500,000, was originally presented to the city by the Ladies of Selma as a memorial of southern resistance, but to groups like White Lies Matter, the chair perpetuates “our heritage of white supremacy” and contradicts “our underlying belief in ‘liberty and justice for all.'”
“America’s original sin is that people were kidnapped from their homes and forced to build one of the most prosperous nations in the world, without being allowed to participate in it,” the email to the UDC read. “We decided, in the spirit of such ignominious traditions, to kidnap a chair instead. Jefferson Davis doesn’t need it anymore.”
One woman at the Virginia UDC offices, however, labeled the ransom letter as “fake news.”
“We took their toy, and we don’t feel guilty about it,” the email continued. “They never play with it anyway. They just want it there to remind us what they’ve done, what they are still willing to do. But the south won’t rise again. Not as the Confederacy. Because that coalition left out a large portion of its population.”
“All that’s left of that nightmare is an obscenely heavy chair that’s a throne for a ghost whose greatest accomplishment was treason.”
As it stands, there’s a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the return of the Jefferson Davis chair.
After reading about how a civil rights group is holding a Confederate monument for ransom, learn about 20 statues honoring Confederates with dishonorable pasts. Then, learn about the anti-Vietnam War movement in 39 protest photos.