Confederate icons to come down in Atlanta, pending support from city council, mayor

By David Pendered

In the most personal of moments, Brenda Muhammad on Monday asked her fellow panelists permission to read aloud a motion calling for the removal of the names Confederate Avenue and East Confederate Avenue from the city’s streets. The two Confederate icons are among several that are to come down, according to recommendations that are headed to the Atlanta City Council and Mayor Kasim Reed.

Peace Monument, piedmont park

The Peace Monument, in Piedmont Park, is to be removed because it speaks to peace between the North and South and ignored African Americans, according to the recommendation of an Atlanta panel. File/Credit: wanderlustatlanta.com

“I have lived off this street for 44 years,” Muhammad said. “I’ve had three generations of children [with whom] this has been a topic of discussion. I would love to be able to read this.”

And so, Muhammad, who for 14 years represented neighborhoods east of the Downtown Connector on the Atlanta Board of Education, read what could be the epitaph for Confederate Avenue. The panel honored her request and Sheffield Hale, the co-chair who had been reading the motions, acquiesced.

The motion also calls for the removal of any street name that honors Nathan Bedford Forrest and John B. Gordon – two Civil War leaders who spent their post-war years promoting white supremacist activities, according to the motion.

The proposed removal of these street names is among a dozen recommendations approved Monday by the Confederate Monuments Advisory Committee. The panel was comprised of 11 volunteers, six appointed by the mayor and five appointed by the council.

The next steps of the process for the city’s review of Confederate icons call for the staff of the Urban Design Commission and its executive director, Doug Young, to write the committee’s report. The report will be delivered for review by the committee’s two co-chairs – Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center, and Dan Moore, founder and director of the APEX Museum.

The Lion of Atlanta statue in the city’s Oakland Cemetery honors some 3,000 unknown Confederate dead. Its ownership is to be transferred to the Oakland Historic Foundation. File/Credit: panoramio.com

The committee is not scheduled to meet again.

The final report is to be presented to the council and mayor. As Young observed, the legislation that created the committee does not say what the council and mayor are to do with the report.

However, Reed made it clear when he addressed the committee at the first of its three meetings that he intends to act on recommendations:

  • “In some instances, it may mean no change at all. In some, you need to act decisively. In some cases, we may need to do more, to expand the tapestry of the city to expand our heritage and history.”

In the end, the committee recommended all three types of action. Here are some highlights:

  • A monument or marker is to be erected at MARTA’s Five Points Station, where a slave auction house stood, and another at Piedmont Park, where Booker T. Washington delivered in 1895 the Atlanta Compromise Speech.
  • Two monuments at Oakland Cemetery, the Confederate Obelisk and the Lion of Atlanta, are to be turned over to the Historic Oakland Foundation, which is to provide additional context to the monuments. The flag pole at the obelisk is to be relocated.
  • The Peace Monument in Piedmont Park is to be removed to a location to be determined.
  • Walker Monument

    The Walker Monument, in East Lake, is to remain standing because an Atlanta panel determined it marks a battlefield rather than honors the Confederacy. Credit: inheritage.org

    The Walker Monument that marks a battlefield in the Atlanta campaign is to remain, unchanged.

  • The Peachtree Battle Monument is to be removed, with the possibility of being replaced by one to be determined.
  • A bust of Sidney Lanier is to remain, unchanged.
  • A portrait of John Calhoun, Atlanta’s mayor during the Civil War, that hangs at Atlanta City Hall was deemed beyond the committee’s purview.
  • Any streets named for Robert E. Lee, Stephen Dill Lee, and Howell Cobb are to be changed.
  • The fate of some 32 street names that may have been intended to honor a Confederate figure is to be determined by a successor committee – though whether such a committee is created is a matter for the next mayor and council to determine.
  • The procedure for changing street names linked to Confederate figures is to be altered to allow folks who rent a home to have a say in whether the name is changed, and to reduce to 50 percent the portion of respondents who vote to have a street name changed.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

6 replies
  1. Letmesaythis says:

    “and another at Piedmont Park, where Booker T. Washington delivered in 1895 the Atlanta Compromise Speech.”
    Presently, there is a historic marker telling the history of Booker T. Washington’s speech.
    It is just steps from and facing the Peace Monument.

    Removing these monuments, markers and street names is not going to change or erase the past, but it will effectively help the masses to forget it, to ensure that it is repeated.
    No matter if the monument was installed during Jim Crow era or to honor war dead at the time of conflict, it will cement ignorance. How ironic since that is what Book T Washington fought against.
    Blind leading the blind.Report

    Reply
  2. Raison d'être says:

    This article is in error: John Calhoun was not Atlanta’s mayor during the war, James Calhoun was. John Calhoun was Vice President of the United States under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.

    With digital information so ephemeral today, now more than ever we need those old monuments to document the past. As we continue to erect new monuments to document today’s sentiments, let’s not knock down old ones–lest we forget where we came from and how far we’ve progressed.Report

    Reply
  3. Ghost of an Enslaved African says:

    Why do Black People have to compromise to have their humanity respected.
    It’s shameful that all this is required and people are defending the indefensible.Report

    Reply

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