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Arlington National Cemetery seeks feedback on plans to remove Confederate Memorial

Arlington National Cemetery Confederate Memorial (via Arlington National Cemetery/Twitter)

Arlington National Cemetery is seeking public input on its proposal to remove the Confederate Memorial from its grounds.

Atop a 32-foot-tall pedestal in the cemetery stands a bronze statue of a woman depicting Confederate soldiers and Southern civilians, according to the cemetery website. The figures include an enslaved woman holding the infant child of a white officer and an enslaved man following his owner to war.

“The elaborately designed monument offers a nostalgic, mythologized vision of the Confederacy, including highly sanitized depictions of slavery,” the website says.

The statue is set to be removed nearly 110 years after its unveiling and placement in a section of the cemetery where Confederate soldiers were buried starting in the 1900s — decades after the war ended. The memorial’s sculptor, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, was also buried there.

The proposal is part of a broader effort by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to remove all references, displays and paraphernalia that commemorate the Confederate States of America and its soldiers from each of the Dept. of Defense’s assets. This includes renaming several military bases and removing statues from the West Point Military Academy, among other recommended changes.

Plans to remove the Confederate Memorial have already been challenged in court, the Washington Post reports. The federal government is seeking to dismiss a suit filed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and descendants of Confederate soldiers in March. The plaintiffs argue it would be a “disgrace” and illegal to remove the statue because it serves as a grave marker for Confederates buried at the site.

The Arlington National Cemetery website disagrees with this interpretation of the Confederate Memorial. It says the statue perpetuates the narrative that Southern secession was a noble “Lost Cause.”

“This narrative of the Lost Cause, which romanticized the pre-Civil War South and denied the horrors of slavery, fueled white backlash against Reconstruction and the rights that the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments (1865-1870) had granted to African Americans,” the website said.

While the cemetery says the government has already started preparing “for the careful removal and relocation of the memorial,” the public is invited to provide feedback on “alternatives that will avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects of the monument’s removal.”

The Army is seeking its first round of public feedback now through the beginning of September. There will be a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

“The removal of the Confederate Memorial must be conducted in a manner that ensures the safety of the people who work at and visit ANC and that protects surrounding graves and monuments,” the website said. “The entire process, including disposition, must occur according to applicable laws, policies, and regulations.”

Two years ago, Congress directed the establishment of a naming commission tasked with assessing how much it would cost to remove Confederacy references and recommending renaming procedures.

The commission developed recommendations that informed a plan approved by the Dept. of Defense last October.

The public engagement process for removing the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery (via Arlington National Cemetery)

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