Among the 11 Confederate statues that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has requested be removed from the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection is one of General Edmund Kirby Smith, who has represented Florida in the Capitol since the 1920s.
What You Need To Know
- Library of Congress OKs mock-up of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune statue
- Legislature voted in 2016 to remove statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith
- World's second largest Confederate flag out of public view in Hillsborough County
- Flag will be back up, says leader of the local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans
Florida lawmakers have been working on removing that statue of Smith’s for years now. The Legislature voted formally in 2016 to remove the statue of Smith, and in 2018 approved replacing it with a sculpture of educator and civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
Tampa Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said the process to have that statue built came one step closer on Monday when a committee with the Library of Congress approved a mock-up of the statue of Bethune that sculptor Nilda Comas has proposed to create.
“She will be a historic representative in the state collection here in the U.S. Capitol,” Castor told Spectrum Bay News 9 on Monday. “Do you know right now, out of the 100 statutes that represent states (in the Statuary Hall Collection), there is no African-American?”
McLeod Bethune is perhaps best known for starting a private school for African-American students in Daytona Beach. That school later merged with the Cookman Institute for Men, and later became known as Bethune-Cookman College.
Closer to home, what has been called the world’s second largest Confederate flag in the world remains out of public view in eastern Hillsborough County.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans removed the flag from Confederate Memorial Park when protesting broke out in Tampa on the last weekend in May following the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.
The move is only temporary, says David McCallister, the leader of the local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans and Save Southern Heritage.
“Certainly the flag will be back up. As soon as everything calms down and it’s safe to do so. We expect to be here for the Super Bowl, and welcome the world to Tampa,” McCallister said on Monday.
Former Tampa Democratic Rep. Ed Narain was the prime sponsor of the bill in the Florida House in 2016 to remove the statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith. He says that the Confederate flag is “not reflective” of the U.S.
“We’re talking about a treasonous flag that was used for a five-year period at the worst point in this country,” he says. “And to a lot of people, especially African-Americans, it’s not a symbol of heritage. It’s an outright symbol of hate. You can look at the historical records, and you see photos of lynchings taking place, and you will see that flag. It is definitely something not worse celebrating.”
There is a currently a petition drive on change.org calling for the “permanent” removal of the Confederate flag in Hillsborough that has flown at the intersection of I-4/I-75 for more than a decade. It now has more than 131,000 signatures, as of Monday afternoon.
“That petition is foolishness,” says McCallister, noting that it asks Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to take action to remove the flag. Because it’s on private property, lawmakers can’t force the property owners to remove it, much to their chagrin.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans began displaying it in 2008, during Pam Iorio’s second-term in office. She called it “divisive,” while former Mayor Bob Buckhorn later called it a “symbol of treason.”
Meanwhile, the momentum to remove Confederate monuments remains strong in Florida as the protests over racial inequality and police abuse continue to take place on a daily basis.
On Sunday, hundreds of people in St. Augustine marched to protest a Confederate monument there. And last week in Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry announced the removal of a statue of a Confederate soldier that had stood in a local park for more than a century, and said that two other monuments and eight historic Confederate markers will be removed as well.
Jacksonville was just named last week to be the host of the Republican National Convention in August.