We are descendants of Emma Sansom’s family and present or former members of the Gadsden community. We add our voices to the call to eliminate the statue at the head of Broad Street celebrating Sansom and Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The monolith was put up to impose white supremacy in Gadsden, which we abhor and lament. The only defensible action today is to eliminate the statue.
Our neighborhood might have forgotten why this statue and others like it were erected. We need to keep in mind why in order to take smart action.
According to the Auburn University-supported Encyclopedia of Alabama:”Emma Sansom (1847-1900) played a heroic role in the Civil War, when as a teen she led Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest throughout Black Creek in northern Alabama to record Union colonel Abel D. Streight and his raiders in 1863.”
. Assistance of the Confederacy and white supremacy can not be separated offered the historical reality: an oligarchy of less than 400,000 enslavers produced secession and war to safeguard their “property rights” over enslaved Black people. Alabama’s secession ordinance in January 1861 foregrounded the hope to “ satisfy the slaveholding States of the South”and set up a new federal government. Cherokee County– which Gadsden belonged of in 1861– voted versus secession in that convention, as did St. Clair County and most northern Alabama counties.
This division among the white ruling class was an early indication of Confederate disunity as lots of Southerners withstood the Confederate project throughout the war. Countless Alabamians employed in the Union Army, mainly from northern Alabama where slavery was established however less central than in the lower Alabama “black belt.”
Public Service Statement Years after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House, the “ Lost Cause”came into existence. The Lost Cause describes the myth that a combined South defended a heroic and noble civilization doomed by fate and the ahistorical “hostility” of the North. The aspects that comprise the Lost Cause draw from works by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and by Confederate General Jubal Early in the 1870s and 1880s. They modified the history of secession and war to distance the Confederacy from slavery, focusing rather on antebellum South
Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun’s “states’ rights” viewpoint– itself a platform to justify Calhoun’s assistance of what he called the “positive great” of slavery.
The purpose of the Lost Cause was to justify the oppressing oligarchy’s intentions and objective in the minds of white Southerners, most of whom did not own servants. Its cult performs an enduring counter-revolution to reject Black people full citizenship to this day.
The legacy of the shackling power is violence against Black people already. That violence consists of the KKK’s multiple incarnations, the Jim Crow program, countless lynchings, and repression versus Black people struggling for civil liberties. Today there are crosses burning in Alabama in reaction against the Black Lives Matter movement. The Lost Cause is not just a shameful past injury, its adherents oppress Black people in America to this day.
What inspired the white people of Gadsden to erect this monument to Sansom and Forrest is just one part of a larger task to retrench white guideline and get rid of Black political freedom.
After federally-directed Reconstruction ended in 1877, the white gentility regained political control of the Southern states. Democratic Celebration “Redeemer” federal governments passed Jim Crow laws segregating Blacks. The United States Supreme Court choice Plessy v Ferguson in 1896 maintained Jim Crow partition. From 1890 to 1908, nearly every post-Confederate state consisting of Alabama adopted a brand-new constitution that disenfranchised the Black population.
The wave of post-Confederate activity was a direct cultural outgrowth of the repression wrought by Southern states against Black people as the Lost Cause cult took hold. This duration birthed the “Dunning School” of historical idea that condemned Reconstruction as a corrupt error, a view contemporary historian Eric Foner calls” part of the edifice of the Jim Crow system.”
The United Daughters of the Confederacy, founded in 1894, was the most prolific company building Lost Cause monuments. They also employed upper- and middle-class white youth and cultural institutions to carry the flame of the Lost Cause through extremely prominent academic campaigns including backing a book that lionized the Ku Klux Klan.
The year 1900, when numerous post-Confederate groups had their first nationwide convention, started an enormous wave of Confederate monolith construction on federal government and openly available residential or commercial property. The Southern Poverty Law Center recognized 403 distinct monoliths constructed to the Lost Cause from 1900 to 1919, over half of all such monoliths standing today. In 1907, forty-four years after the Black Creek
crossing, the Gadsden chapter of the United Children of the Confederacy set up the statue of Emma Sansom and Nathan Bedford Forrest ignoring the Coosa River. The Etowah County commissioners court, which today is the Etowah County Commission, likewise got the Alabama state Legislature to fund the statue. Public cash spent for the facility of this monolith and the general public should be involved in its disestablishment. This is not a personal matter. We need to bear in mind that the City of Gadsden’s establishment of
this statue was just responsible to the white citizenry. Black people were not able to vote and delight in representation during this time due to Jim Crow. It was not a unified city building this monolith, however a segregated racial class directed by the torch-bearers of the Lost Cause. Seeing these statues in the context of history, it is clear that their purpose is supremacy of Black Americans struggling to secure their freedom. The Sansom and Forrest statue is inextricable from the oppressing power and its twisted descendant ideologies. The statue’s base honorably portrays the guy who managed the massacre of primarily Black Union soldiers at Fort Pillow which has actually been called” one of the bleakest, saddest events in American military history.”The general public celebration of Forrest ‘s legacy is outrageous, and Emma Sansom’s aid to his cause can not be separated from its repercussions. They supported enslavers versus the liberation of millions of Black individuals. The McNeel Marble Business of Georgia, which developed the statue, plainly stated what it was selling in a Confederate Veteran article for its statues announcing”SUPREMACY.”The statue is not a modern historic marker; nor is it supposed to be a real similarity of Emma Sansom. Rather, the statue is a political justification built only 6 years after Alabama’s constitutional change shifted the Jim Crow regime into overdrive. Its purpose has not faded. The statue’s memorial of Forrest and Sansom in 1907 belongs to putting up a statue to segregationist Birmingham leader Bull Connor today, a male who attacked civil liberties protesters consisting of children with pet dogs, fire hoses, and mass arrest in the early 1960s. These monoliths do hurt lasting for generations when we forget the underlying causes of department and inequality in society. The roots of Black individuals ‘oppression today have a lot to do with the
erection and maintenance of that statue, as does the relatively wealthier position of white individuals in our community. To accomplish justice, we must remember and after that act in uniformity. The multiracial movement requiring modification in Gadsden is comprised of our next-door neighbors. They are not”outdoors agitators.”They have to cope with the Lost Cause’s weight every day– as all of us do. Some white individuals in Gadsden state they feel a connection to this statue as part of their heritage, and consider the statue part of the material of their home. Our Black neighbors are making it clear that they agree, which is precisely why they need to
see change in our neighborhood. We wish to reside in a harmonious democratic society where all can live without intimidation. Lots of people who feel pride about Emma Sansom talk about”department”about the statue like it is a brand-new phenomenon. The protest versus the statue is the voice of an awakened neighborhood. They understand that it is time to resolve the focal points of what has actually caused a division in
our neighborhood for over a hundred years. It just looks like a brand-new” division”to those of us who benefit the most from the “regular “status quo. We ask those who may feel a sense of pride about the statue to analyze if most of their Black next-door neighbors feel the very same pride. You might say you are not personally racist and have kindness to prove it. The statue’s impact in Gadsden is not about anyone’s individual feelings or failings– it is a feature of the systemic oppression that acts to this day versus the flexibility of Black individuals. Gadsden’s population today is more than one-third Black people. What are we making with a monolith that commemorates an achievement implied to keep a 3rd of our neighbors in chains? Believe beyond your individual experience and towards the entire of the Gadsden neighborhood. Can we meet our prospective as a beloved neighborhood if more than one-third of our neighbors are daily reminded that the town commemorates a time when their relatives were enslaved? Eliminating the statue will take a weight off our backs that we might have never recognized. The argument that thinks about these statues as”history”today speaks with the success of the Lost Cause’s cultural hegemony. Yes, we must remember– a history never ever to repeat. Gadsden does not have to commemorate a guy who led the perpetrators of racist terror. We can leave the Lost Cause behind, beginning by removing its signs that haunt us.
Seek to the heartening installation of a memorial four years ago to the memory of Black Gadsdenite Bunk Richardson. In Feburary 1906, Richardson was framed for the rape and murder of a white woman, drawn from the Etowah County prison and lynched by a mob of 25 masked men. This act of racist oppression happened the very same year the UDC commissioned the statue of Sansom and Forrest on Broad Street. Determining and honoring the victims of oppression is a required part of making justice possible, and we can all do it together.
Those are the type of memorials we need in Gadsden. We can remove this statue similar to other Alabama cities are doing. This month, the mayors of Birmingham and Mobile licensed and executed the removal of Lost Cause statues
. The University of Alabama Board of Trustees and the Madison County Commission voted to remove Confederate memorials in current weeks. The Gadsden community’s job is neither difficult, nora logistical obstacle. It is time to make the ethical choice– say goodbye to Lost Cause in Gadsden. What does it look like to inform the story of Gadsden that points us towards justice and far from racialized domination? If the statue of Sansom and Forrest stays standing somewhere when removed from public view, it needs context showing that it commemorates the cause of human enslavement– and that today we wish to build a society of liberation
for all individuals. If we are quiet, we are complicit in the ongoing injustice versus Black individuals. As Emma Sansom’s nieces and nephews, the best initial step we can take to eliminate the stain of white supremacy in Gadsden is to remove this sign of the enslaving power that once ruled this land. We can remove the source of department and meet the American pledge of a democracy filled with equivalent
participants. We are encouraged by the multiracial makeup of both the BLM protesters and the City Council members requiring the statue of Sansom and Forrest to be moved. The motion calling to take the statue down has already made progress in removing racial department by standing together. We stand with them. The guarantee of a democratic society, where all are produced equivalent, lies after the statue’s shadow over Broad
Street has faded. Eliminate the statue, and let’s get to deal with building a beloved community in Gadsden and in the United States. Signed, Donald Rhea William Henry Rhea III Marie Rhea Singleton Richard Rhea Kelvin Knight Leigh Ann Rhea Nina Ellen Rhea Anna Rhea Knight Hopkins Karen Lynn Knight Craft Preston Rhea Holly Rhea Hanks Laney Rhea Eskridge William Henry Rhea IV Source: alreporter.com