ASU Professor explains why Arizona has Civil War monuments

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Ted Simons: Governor Ducey has been asked to remove them, but governor said he will not tear down monuments in the state. Why does Arizona have monuments to confederate soldiers.

Ted Simons: How many confederate monuments are in Arizona?

Calvin Shermerhorn: There are six confederate monuments. Six, 1940s to as recently as 2010.

Ted Simons: The obvious question, is why are they here.

Calvin Shermerhorn: Good question. The Arizona territory seceded in March, 1861. A concession in Macea, that's New Mexico. There was also in the Tucson. But at the time the territory that called itself the territory of Arizona is running between the parallel between Phoenix and Prescott.

Ted Simons: The southern half of the state including the Phoenix area, confederate?

Calvin Shermerhorn: Confederate. Before we get too deeply into that, this represented European Americans, most of the state was Native American, Mexican. It was more symbolic than anything else. But the confederate government in Richmond actually recognized the southern part of the state as well as the southern part of the confederacy.

Calvin Shermerhorn: These monuments date back to those times? Some of these things 100 years old or what?

Calvin Shermerhorn: The oldest placed in 1943. That is some 80 years after the civil war. The newest one, 2010.

Ted Simons: The newest confederate memorial in Arizona was dedicated seven years ago?

Calvin Shermerhorn: Yes, that's by the Hunter Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and it's a memorial to the 21 confederates buried at the Sierra Vista cemetery.

Ted Simons: 1943 until now, we're seeing an explosion, a small explosion of confederate monuments, why?

Calvin Shermerhorn: This is part of a -- part of -- Arizona is part of a larger trend. There were some monuments that went up right after the war for the individual soldiers. Most that are famous, the monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia attracting a lot of attention recently went up a generation or two after the civil war. The reason for that is after a few decades, the veterans were dying off and organizations like the United Daughters of the confederacy and the sons of confederate veterans took up the mantle of memorializing the confederate cause. There's something else that shaped those memorialization’s which is in the generation after the civil war, more and more history has decided that slavery was less and less important.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Okay. That's what's going on in the south. As far as Arizona is concerned, 43, 61. We'll talk about the Leslie Bowen one in a second. Why in 1943 did we start to erect statues and monuments?

Calvin Shermerhorn: The Arizona chapter of the United Daughters the confederacy didn't start until 1919. This is when most of the monuments in the south had gone up or were going up. And so this is also a part of memorializing Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacies. And since there was Jefferson Davis was responsible for the Gadsden purchase, the part of Arizona south of the Pima River. He knew Gadsden, a South Carolina railroad president. In 1943, you have a confluence of tension that the United Daughters of the confederacy are also trying to rename the southern route because the lip con highway is running from San Francisco all the way to New York City. So it was kind of a competitive memory.

Ted Simons: That's the Jefferson Davis highway. Thanks for being the president of the confederacy or the Gadsden purchase.

Calvin Shermerhorn: That's the tie-in, why Jefferson Davis highway in Arizona. Well, it was -- it was the southern route across the country.

Ted Simons: All right, so why do we have a confederate veterans monument at Wesley Bowen plaza erected in 1961.

Calvin Shermerhorn: Again, in the context of fight first and civil rights among African Americans, it's also the 100 anniversary, the start of the confederacy, the secession of Arizona right from the union. In 1961, there's a push to remember this version of confederate history.

Ted Simons: Because of the Brown v. Board of education a year earlier.

Calvin Shermerhorn: The civil rights struggle is the backdrop for this. This is why the monument contracted controversy. But one thing the monument gets right. And that is there's an inscription at the foot of it. There's a nation that forgets its past has no future. But what really kind of keys in to why these monuments are important and why they attract so much attention is because they focus our memories, if you like. And there's not such a thing as history in the past that we have to go and revere. In each general b ration, we rethink history. We go back and think about you know what's important to do? And so if we look at those monuments in the context, and what they represent, then we can say, well, was the civil war about slavery? Or was it about something else? And what the monuments seem to say is, the confederate monuments seem to say is we're honoring the valor of the southern soldier. A lot of the history goes back to the time period. If you read a textbook in 1961, you probably wouldn't hear a lot about slavery being important. But you might get a lot about the valor of states' rights, southerners fighting against the distant time tyrannical federal government and when it was all said and done, they stacked their arms and went home peacefully.

Ted Simons: Yet, again, the oldest one was dedicated in 1943, the most recent in 2010. It suggests something more than remembering the nearly and most recently depart?

Calvin Shermerhorn: Right. It's keeping alive the memory of that past, right? And it's not that there is a true version and a false version of history. But it's a selective memory, a memory that reaches past the civil rights struggle back to the past where the cause of slavery can be kind of put into the background.

Ted Simons: Can you understand why African Americans have problems with these monuments.

Calvin Shermerhorn: Yes. Because the -- because although the Arizona secession ordinance did not mention slavery, they joined the southern confederacy and explicitly joined that cause. And had the confederacy won, had the object for which those soldiers fought been achieved, the confederacy would have contained the most robust and dynamic slave society in the hemisphere.

Ted Simons: All right, interesting stuff. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Calvin Shermerhorn: Thank you so much.

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