Editor: In 1906, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors earmarked $500 for the erection of a Confederate statue in the heart of Leesburg, on Loudoun County Courthouse grounds, the seat of the county’s government. It is time to correct that mistake.
Over one hundred years later, the Board of Supervisors will vote for the second time in three years on the removal of the statue from Loudoun’s courthouse grounds.
The Loudoun County courthouse traces our history of contradictions. Rebuilt three times since 1761, it is the site of Loudoun County’s first reading of the Declaration of Independence, the seat of where enslaved individuals were sold and jailed, and also the source of emancipation deeds issued from 1793 onward. Now, two centuries after the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” were read out, there stands a monument venerating those who fought against that ideal.
The statue is not about honor or heritage. As the board vice chairman noted in a recent Loudoun Times-Mirror article, “This Confederate monument, like many others across the South, was put up during the Jim Crow era—many decades after the Civil War ended—primarily to symbolize white supremacy, not to honor soldiers after the war.”
That message of inequality is still heard today. As Leesburg resident Brittany Rose stated in a 2017 Washington Post article, “To walk past the courthouse that celebrates people who fought for folks like me to be treated as property is a smack in the face every day. It sends the wrong message to people who expect to be treated fairly here, and it sends a message to folks who think that, because of the color of their skin, they should be treated differently in our country.”
Nor is it about history. Those opposed to the statue’s removal, such as the Southern Historic Preservation Society, worry that the removal of the statue will impede the truth of the South’s history. On their website page entitled “Endangered Monuments,” they ask, “If one wishes to tell a whole story why not make more memorials and tell the whole story, don’t try to rewrite history by destroying monuments.”
This argument is deceptive. No one is rewriting history. The Sons of Liberty tore down the statue of King George III in Manhattan and used it to make guns and bullets. Yet no one is left wondering who won the American Revolution. Tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein does not erase his murderous rule, but it does remove one monument glorifying it. As Supervisor Juli Briskman noted in a June 12, article in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, “Confederate statues need not remain to remind us of our history. Nowhere else are the atrocities committed against our country’s own citizens publicly celebrated. We do not have monuments that glorify the internment of Japanese Americans, for example.”
Supervisor Chairwoman Phyllis Randall has worked tirelessly on moving the statue for close to 20 years. She emphatically stated the reason why the statue is not appropriate for courthouse grounds: “I’ve been opposed to a monument of the Confederacy sitting on County owned, public property for almost two decades.” Until now, she and others have been blocked by state law.
But a February Virginia House bill gives localities the ability to remove, relocate, or contextualize monuments in their communities as they see fit.
The time has long since passed for our public square to reflect our ideals. That is why I am sponsoring a Change.org petition, with 4,000 signatures and growing, to remove Loudoun County’s Confederate statue from courthouse grounds to a more suitable location.
Jessica Monte, Ashburn