Verify: Is this Confederate statue about history or white supremacy?

Verify: Is Confederate statue about history or white supremacy?

We've heard a lot this week about Confederate monuments and White Supremacy.

For some context on what all of this means, let's focus on the story behind just one major monument in Dallas, the one that honors General Robert E. Lee.

And here’s our question… is this Confederate monument about history or is it about white supremacy?

And so we're all on the same page, the definition of white supremacy is the belief that whites are "superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society."

For answers, we'll examine the historical record from around the time the Lee monument was built and hear from Michael Phillips, a historian at Collin College. He's an expert on the history of race relations in Texas and wants Confederate monuments removed.  

"This is a period of maximum white supremacist politics,” Phillips said.

The period when the Lee statue went up was not right after the Civil War, which ended in 1865. It was 70 years after the war, in 1936.

At that time, blacks in Texas were kept from voting because of poll taxes that many were too poor to pay, lynching of blacks was still a reality of life in Texas and legal segregation was at its peak, shutting blacks out of economic and educational opportunities.

Phillips says there's one more thing you need to know about the years leading up to this period.

“The Ku Klux Klan. Dallas is the epicenter of the rebirth of the KKK. It has the largest national chapter. The man who becomes the national leader of the Clan is a Dallas dentist,” Phillips said.

Klansman even used to get discounts at the State Fair of Texas.

Okay, so back to that statue and the year 1936.

It was the 100th birthday of Texas, with an extravagant celebration planned at Fair Park. Part of the Centennial was the christening of Lee Park with its statue and replica of Lee's plantation home.

President Franklin Roosevelt, in town for the Centennial, even cut the ribbon.

“They're making the confederacy a central part of Texas history. That's the reason it’s going up in that year,” Phillips said. “You should think of it as a relic of a time when race relations where at their most violent and most oppressive,” he added.

Phillips is part of a coalition of more than 100 local historians, professors, clergy and activists who all agree with his interpretation.

So, is the statue of General Lee about history or white supremacy?  

Based on the facts that it was built 70 years after the war, the hostile treatment of black during that time, and the complete control whites had over society the monument must be seen not as a history of the Civil War but as a history of a more recent time when white supremacy reigned.  

Got something you want verified?  Send me an email at david@verifytv.com

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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