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How Alabama contextualized the Confederacy in 2018

Different narratives concerning Alabama's Civil War and Reconstruction history clashed throughout 2018. The tension fueled debates over the public placement of the state's Confederate symbols, but it also started a discussion about how to add context to the painful parts of the past.

Jonece Starr Dunigan

The dividing opinions about Confederate monuments and memorials were clear at the beginning of the year. Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center released a report in January analyzing the 1,728 Confederate symbols that remained nationwide after a white supremacist gunned down nine black worshipers at a historical church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.

While 110 Confederate monuments have been removed across the nation since the shooting, 121 tributes honoring the Confederacy, including school, street and state holiday names, still remain in Alabama. The state has fewer monuments than other Southern states, but very few Confederate symbols have been removed in Alabama.

Photo: The Monument to Confederate Soldiers and Sailors was erected on the grounds of the Alabama state capitol in 1898.

SPLC condemned the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a 2017 law prohibiting the removal, altering or renaming of monuments more than 40 years old. While the organization doesn't advocate for the monuments' destruction, SPLC believes the monuments should be moved into a state archive, where they can be taught in context.


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