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News has come in that a monument built as a Civil War memorial located alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in the east Texas town of Orange, will feature Confederate flags. The memorial will hoist 32 flags in remembrance of the Texas regiment of the Confederate army that fought during the Civil War. A group named Sons of Confederate Veterans is building the memorial. The expenditure is said to be more than $50,000 and the land used for building the memorial is privately owned.
The group has ordered that the flagpoles would stand alongside 13 separate columns signifying the states that seceded from the Union. These flags would represent the states that chose to secede from the United States of America, an act, which then led to the American Civil War. These states fought to preserve and continue the culture of slavery which was later abolished by the then President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, in the year 1865.
According to the history of the abolition of slavery in the U.S., by the year 1850, many states in the North had abolished slavery and were known as Free states. However, the southern states which were acquiring a lot of wealth due to their cotton crops, had started threatening the Union of secession and forming a new southern nation, calling it the Confederate States of America. This was because the slaves were bought from across the Atlantic Ocean and forced to work in the cotton fields under inhumane conditions. The manual sourcing for slavery was what the economy of the southern states was based on back then.
As tensions arose, the ministers of the churches in the South who were supporting slavery, and were differentiated by their Christian paternalism, the Methodist churches, and the Baptist got divided into northern and southern regional organizations. When Lincoln became the president after winning the 1860 elections on the promise that there would not be any new slave states, the South broke away from the Union and formed the Confederacy. The fact is that the six states that seceded at first held the maximum number of slaves. This caused the beginning of the American Civil War which marked the end of the slave economy.
Millions of slaves were either liberated by the Union armies or escaped. After the end of war, the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States constitution was formally declared the abolition of the practice of slavery across the United States of America in December 1865. Ironic as it may be, the Confederate memorial will be just off a city street near the Texas-Louisiana state border which has been named after the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The structure of the memorial which will be circular in design is currently under construction. It has been reported that the construction work is nearing its completion and is located north of Interstate Highway 10.
The attorney for the city of Orange, John Smith, spoke to media about the recent developments. Orange is the town where the Confederate group is getting the memorial constructed and is 100 miles east of Houston. He agreed that it was a bad idea to have a confederate memorial. However, as it is being built on private property, it was their right as per the First Amendment of the United States constitution. He also revealed that the monument is being built with the help of private funding.
Smith also said that in case the officials had made any efforts to stop the construction of the memorial, the city of Orange could have faced a lawsuit as it would have infringed the group’s First Amendment right. Additionally, the idea of a Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas, was supported by 77 percent of the population living in the town. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a person’s rights and freedom of expression as fundamentals of an elected government under democracy. These rights include freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press.
A resident of Orange and leader of the state-wide Sons of Confederate Veterans group, Granvel Block, justified the group’s action and plan of building the memorial. He said that back in the 1860s, defending slavery for their cotton fields and other menial jobs was not the real reason why southern states fought the Civil War. It was in fact the invasion of the South by the northern states’ troops and the Union army that caused the war. The Confederate states were merely defending their right to remain sovereign and maintaining their self-governance. Block further stated that the idea behind the memorial is to set straight the poorly reported historical events. He said that the group intends to correct the erroneous and skewed historical teachings about the Civil War and the Confederacy, along with the events that transpired before, during, and after the war.
Block is also a plaintiff in a recent case that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The court will decide whether the state of Texas was wrong in rejecting a specialized license plate which displayed the Confederate flag. He did clarify that the group had not chosen the location of the Confederate memorial so close to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on purpose. He said that the group simply bought the cheapest available piece of land that they could find in Orange. He concluded that the location was not finalized to ‘stir the pot’ or as a symbolic victory.
Another spokesperson for the group’s Texas division said that the funding and material supply for the memorial was raised by public contribution and donations. He said that the local residents whose forefathers had fought for the Confederate army in the Civil War donated the memorial bricks. Some residents have also spoken against the memorial and said that it acts as a reminder of the ugly legacy of discrimination and violence in the South. However, the Texas town of Orange is all set to hoist the Confederate flags at a Civil War memorial being built alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
By Ankur Sinha