Fight To Remove Arizona’s Confederate Monuments Fizzle

A monument in Picacho Peak State Park commemorates the lives of Confederate soldiers who fought there. (Photo by: Brit Reid/Arizona Sonora News)

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For years, the East Valley branch of the NAACP fought to remove  Confederate monuments throughout the state. Nothing happened.

Fueled by momentum after the August 2017 Charlottesville riots and the toppling of many Confederate monuments throughout the South, East Valley NAACP president Roy M. Tatem, Jr. was hopeful that change would finally be made.

But no. Arizona’s Confederate monuments are not going anywhere.

According to Tatem, the drive to remove these monuments from Arizona state land began in 2015. The group began researching the backstory of a highway named for Confederate President Jefferson Davis and found that five other monuments honoring confederate soldiers also existed in Arizona. There was a confederate memorial in the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Cemetery, a Confederate veterans monument in Greenwood Memory Lawn Cemetery, a grave of four Confederate soldiers killed at Dragoon Springs. There was also monument honoring Confederate veterans placed in front of the state capitol.

Gov. Doug Ducey refuses to take a stance  for or against the removal, says Tatem.

“We realized that we needed to voice our concerns and opinions against the identification or sympathy for the Confederate government,” said Tatem. “(Ducey) left it up to the boards of land and geography and the department of transportation.”

While most of the fighting during the Civil War was done in states that bordered Union and Confederate territory, Arizona was claimed as Confederate territory during the end of the war. Davis ordered a 2,500 man march through Arizona to gain control of the seaports in California. The troops moved through Arizona, destroying Union stockpiles in an attempt to reach California.

Met by Union resistance around what is now Casa Grande, Arizona, there were shots fired. Out of the less than 30 men that participated in the battlethree were killed.

“The firefight lasted some 90 minutes, and 24 men total were engaged, there were 11 casualties,” says former Arizona state historian Marshall Trimble, “If you’re in a firefight like that, that’s a pretty good firefight.”

A welcome sign details the battle fought at Picacho Peak, as well as Arizona’s role in the Civil War. (Photo by: Brit Reid/Arizona Sonora News)

Today, Picacho Peak State Park, a stretch of desert about 50 miles north of Tucson, features one of the six monuments in Arizona erected to commemorate Confederate soldiers.

I think a battle is actually a glorification of what happened there, it was a tiny number of people,” said Adam Donaldson, a professor of military history at the University of Arizona.

While the monuments stand to commemorate the lives lost during the Civil War, most were erected during the 20th century at the height of the Civil Rights movement. The dates in which the monuments were put up leads to an argument that the statues hold hidden motives.

“It’s about memory and historical memory, but it’s more people in the 20th century manufacturing certain things about the past,” said Donaldson, “If you look at a monument that is put up in 1961 or 1968, it seems clear that at some level it has to be a response to the movement going on in the country.”

Tatem agrees.

“There is a true organized effort to preserve, currently, the memories and the failure of the Confederacy, and I don’t know why,” said Tatem. “The main reason we wanted to move forward with the removal of these monuments is that many of them were erected in the ’60s, in response to the civil rights movement.”

Tatem says that he had originally hoped that because of the momentum of many Confederate monuments being taken down in the south, the same could be done in ArizonaHe found that that was not the case.

“What we found about Arizona is that there’s nothing easy about enacting legislation,” Tatem said. “So we continue to voice our opinions, we continue to lobby, we continue to inform the public, so that hopefully one day we can rid the state entirely of this Confederate memorabilia.”

A petition put out by Tatem and the East Valley NAACP to remove these monuments currently has 586 signatures.

Trimble says that history trumps any type of discomfort that people may have with the Confederate monuments that stand in Arizona.

“This is not an issue for people today to be deciding, these things occurred and America has never been afraid to expose its history, warts and all,” he says.

Brit Reid is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at britreid@email.arizona.edu. 

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Arizona Sonora News Service offers the best written and multimedia journalism being produced by students at the University of Arizona School of Journalism. We produce original content during the fall and spring semesters, and also draw original material from Journalism School media: The Tombstone Epitaph, El Independiente, Arizona Cat’s Eye.

26 Comments

  1. From the Propaganda Commie Couch we here “As I recall it, the Civil War was about rival capitalisms — slave-based vs. free labor-based — seeking dominance.”

    No better reason to keep these monuments than this expression of ignorance. It wasn’t about capitalism, it wasn’t about slavery, it was about freedom of the individual, rights of states and federalism. But those that only know or can only imagine a central government that controls all do not have the capacity to understand.

    The failure to learn from our past is on full display.

    Don’t let liberals/progressives/communists/socialists white wash our history just like the Taliban to remake in their own image. Their only goal is the downfall of the United States of America, the repudiation of the Constitution.

    • No it wasn’t about states’ rights and federalism, because the confederacy restricted the rights of states to abolish slavery themselves and restricted states’ rights.

  2. I agree take it down. Let’s find God fearing , Loving , public servants and name the area after those who do good.

    Richard Hernandez

    • Oh, come on now Richard. You know that would only start your salivation. Nothing less than the return of Arizona, California and New Mexico to Mexico would satisfy your tastes.

      Make Arizona Mexico Again!!! Get Whitey, Make Him Pay!

  3. Albert, you ever been to Gettysburg??? Thought not. Just gives one chills to stand there and look out over the battlefield and think about what happened on that field in those three days. How dare you suggest that its OK to take down any monuments to the men who fought for both sides. You sir, are as sick as the rest of the liberals.

  4. “Also dont forget it was mainly the north that started the slave industry to begin with, except they called them INDENTURED SERVANTS.”

    Liberals call their latest version “Undocumented”.

  5. Actually the war was NOT about slavery, that became the topic when the NORTH was loosing and they needed to gen up support. Thats why lincoln never said anything until about 1863 or so. The war was basically one of ECONOMIC DEPRESSION. The south wanted free trade the north wanted to control the cotton for the northern mills. Also dont forget it was mainly the north that started the slave industry to begin with, except they called them INDENTURED SERVANTS. The south also had some but it was not until the industrial revolution and the need for cotton products that it picked up as there was not a viable way to plant and reap at the time. Its a convoluted history but too many rely on the stuff in the movies and on tv to get their history!

    • As I recall it, the Civil War was about rival capitalisms — slave-based vs. free labor-based — seeking dominance. When both black and white workers were first brought over it was as indentured servants. But that timed out and both were released from their bondage until the powers-that-be of the day decided they didn’t have to free blacks — thus beginning the “peculiar institution” of chattel slavery here.

      It’s correct that Lincoln came to the idea of emancipation reluctantly, but then hundreds of thousands of former slaves fought to free their brethren.
      That poor, non-slave-holding, whites were used as cannon fodder was and still is, a tragedy. A memorial, kind of like the Vietnam Memorial with all the names of the dead from the North and South, would be appropriate. Memorials to Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee and those who launched that bloody and nation-splitting war should come down. I understand that in the name of healing reprisals were not taken after the war, but let’s not elevate those traitors into heroes worthy of our monuments.

      The shame was that Reconstruction, which started out with such hope, was sabotaged after Lincoln’s assassination, and racist segregation allowed to keep African Americans “in their place” until mass movements forced change. White supremacy, however, is still alive and well as a deep-seated cultural ideology.

      And jd, I’ve been to Gettysburg, and Appomattox, and Manassas. I’ve lived in the segregated south with its White Only signs such as Arizona used to have. I’ve also seen, in my lifetime, the murderous results of racism, the lynchings, beatings, burnings and bombings, and yes, police shootings. Erecting or maintaining memorials to those who spawned those slaughters only legitimizes the killing, and has no place in our America.

      • You don’t recall very well. It was far more about a federal government and northeast liberals trying to dictate the life of southerners, following their God (you wouldn’t know about that either) given rights to the pursuit of happiness.

        But then again, you wouldn’t know about individual rights, sovereignty of states, federalism, because if Karl Marx didn’t write it, you don’t know it.

        Interesting you state that white supremacy is alive and well yet you live in one of the least diverse places in the country, almost all whites.

  6. I treasure the memories of all the times that my Dad and I stood by Revolutionary, Confederate, Union, and other war memorials in Florida, and those in and around Washington, D.C., because he always explained what those memorials where about. Back in 2003 after attending Dad’s funeral, I went to D.C. and had lunch in the shadow of the US Marines who raised our flag on Mt. Surabachi and proudly bragged to any passerby who cared to know that the one fellow reaching up to the flag pole after helping to lift it was Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from the Sacaton area near Phoenix. Everytime I drive by the Sacaton turn-off, I think of Ira with a smile and a short prayer for him and his people. The WW I monument at Memorial Park in Jacksonville, FL, is my strongest childhood memory, with my Dad explaining that 9 million men from all the involved countries had died in that war. No small wonder that I became a history teacher. Regarding the Civil War, I have many matriarchal ancestors who were Confederate soldiers, none of them who owned slaves. So, I had to ask myself as a young’un, “What compelled them to fight, to the tune of 700,000 men being killed by their fellow countrymen?” Our government, states and federal, failed the Civil War generation. Is that happening again? Yes, so what are we going to do about it, fight another Civil War or what? That, for me, is why memorials, yes even Confederate ones, should remain, for us to teach the next generation to have an appreciation for the liberty they now have which were fought for by previous generations.

  7. “Taking down monuments honoring defenders of slavery who took up arms against the United States is not erasing history.”

    What a foolish and nonsensical statement. Of course it’s erasing history. And those monuments allow us to relive that history every time we see it, and learn, remember, appreciate. Visit a civil war battlefield some time, Gettysburg or even the smaller ones, maybe you’ll learn there was a whole lot more to the Civil War than slavery.

    We certainly can’t trust the public education system to give us the whole story.

    But Karl Marx didn’t write it so you wouldn’t know it.

  8. As terrible as it was, the Civil War was a fight among Americans, and both sides deserve to be commemorated.

    BTW: I can find no place in the Constitution that forbids states from leaving the Union.

    • Agreed. I recently found that my g-g-grandfather was a confederate soldier killed at Gettysburg. This man was certainly no slaveholder. He was a poor immigrant coal miner from Wales with a wife and two small children to support. We can’t know for certain, but doubtless he joined up for a job, not because he supported slavery.

    • What part of “United States” do you not understand? Not to mention Article 1, Section 8, providing for the suppression of insurrections, and Article 3, Section 3, “Treason against the United States shall consists only in levying war against them or in adhering to their enemies.”

      Seems evident the Confederate South committed both insurrection and treason, and we honor their leaders why?

      • Because its called HISTORY Albert, you either learn from or you are doomed to repeat it and the liberals and Soros backers sure want to go down that road again. Stupid is as stupid does. Why doe the white man try to clean up this mess a second time. It was a very different day and age, but some blacks still think it is the mid 1860’s. Go figure.

        • We honor traitors, slaveholders, and scumbags because it’s history?

          Memorialize, maybe, but honor? Gross.

      • Lannon it’s because this is when the civil war was uncivil – I’m not a pro confederate anything – but it was war – I am glad the North won or we’d be a different nation? Not ruled by some outlaws? Did we end up at the same place?

      • Maybe you should educate yourself about Appomattox.

        “Quieting a band that had begun to play in celebration, Grant told his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” ”

        And the Confederates went home with their guns. Respect and Honor.

        You are ignorant to American history.

    • There’s not but the SCOTUS did rule in a case that it was unconstitutional for states to sucede. I think ti was Texas V white or something like that

  9. I call BS on the whole movement to deface monuments from our HISTORY. You can not make it like it never happened, you learn form it. Guess that the blacks never learned from it because a great number are still living on the government plantations accepting welfare and everything else free that goes with it. You can never erase what happened during the Civil war, but as whole, the blacks still feel oppressed and want everything given to them. Wonder how well that is working out for them now? Need I say Chicago, Baltimore and DC among many others.

    • Yeah cuz white people don’t collect government checks.

      And they don’t feel entitled, either.

  10. Liberals so desperately want to rewrite/wipe away history – just like the Taliban.

    Except of course, Pancho Villa, the marauder, kidnapper, rapist and murderer who Tucson ‘honors’ when all visitors enter downtown. You see, he killed whitey and that’s a hero to liberals.

    • WA – how did Pershing’s Army treat the Mexican’s upon their entry into Mexico in their quest to get Villa? Just curious…

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