By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Arlington National Cemetery will soon remove a Confederate monument that shows a Confederate soldier grasping an infant with a slave woman, whose own child clings to the hem of her dress.
Despite GOP opposition, the U.S. Army recently announced plans to remove the monument from its 32-foot pedestal. Characterizing the monument as a “mythologized vision of the Confederacy (that contains) highly sanitized depictions of slavery,” the monument will be relocated to New Market Battlefield State, located about 100 miles west of Arlington.
Although 44 Republican lawmakers objected to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin removing the monument, and demanded that all removal efforts cease, workers will remove the memorial’s bronze elements and leave its granite base in place to avoid damaging nearby gravesites, officials said.
The U.S. Army is required to comply with a law to identify and remove assets that commemorate the Confederacy. A congressional commission had previously decided the memorial met the criteria for removal. The task will cost $3 million.
The monument’s removal and the renaming of several U.S. military bases marks a significant moment in the Defense Department’s mission to cleanse the U.S. military of Confederate iconography.
(The text that follows is taken from the Arlington National Cemetery website.)
The monument was unveiled in 1914, and was designed by noted American sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran and the first Jewish graduate of Virginia Military Institute.
The elaborately designed monument stands on a 32-foot-tall pedestal, a bronze, classical female figure, crowned with olive leaves, represents the American South. She holds a laurel wreath, a plow stock and a pruning hook, with a Biblical inscription at her feet: “They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
The statue stands on a pedestal with four cinerary urns, one for each year of the war, and is supported by a frieze with 14 shields, one for each of the 11 Confederate states and the border states of Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri. Thirty-two life-sized figures depict mythical gods alongside Southern soldiers and civilians.
Two of these figures are portrayed as African-American: an enslaved woman depicted as a “Mammy,” holding the infant child of a white officer, and an enslaved man following his owner to war.
The image of the faithful slave, embodied in the two figures on the memorial, appeared widely in American popular culture during the 1910s through 1930s, perhaps most famously in the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind.”