Dear President Obama: Please Don't Honor the Arlington Confederate Monument By Edward Sebesta and James Loewen This letter was written by Edward Sebesta and James Loewen and signed by the scholars listed below.
May 18, 2009
President Barack H. Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
Since the administration of Woodrow Wilson, presidents have sent annually a wreath to the Arlington Confederate Monument. Prior to the administration of George H. W. Bush, this was done on or near the birthday of Jefferson Davis. Starting with George H.W. Bush, it has been done on Memorial Day.
We ask you to not send a wreath or some other commemorative token to the Arlington Confederate Monument during your administration or after.
There are several reasons as to why this monument, a product of the Nadir in American race relations, should not be honored, and we list and explain them in this letter.
The monument was intended to legitimize secession and the principles of the Confederacy and glorify the Confederacy. It isn't just a remembrance of the dead. The speeches at its ground-breaking and dedication defended and held up as glorious the Confederacy and the ideas behind it and stated that the monument was to these ideals as well as the dead. It was also intended as a symbol of white nationalism, portrayed in opposition to the multiracial democracy of Reconstruction, and a celebration of the re-establishment of white supremacy in the former slave states by former Confederate soldiers. In its design it also tells wrong history, boasting fourteen shields with the coat of arms of fourteen states. Thus it claims that Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland were part of the Confederacy. They weren't.
The monument was given to the Federal Government by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), which raised the funds to erect it. The UDC's reasons for the monument are instructive. In the address of Mrs. Daisy McLaurin Stevens, President General of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at its dedication, she makes clear that the monument is to glorify the ideas of the Confederacy:
Great ideas and righteous ideas are alone immortal. The eternal years of God are theirs. The ideas our heroes cherished were and are beneficial as they are everlasting. These were living then; they are living to-day and shall live to-morrow and work the betterment of mankind. Thus our heroes are of those who, though dead, still toil for man through the arms and brains of those their examples have inspired and quickened to nobler things.
Since the United Daughters of the Confederacy upheld in multiple publications in the early 20th Century that the Ku Klux Klan was the heroic effort of the Confederate soldier, we have an idea what the "noble past" and "ideas our heroes cherished" were. Of course one of these "ideas" was secession to preserve the institution of African slavery.
Likewise General Bennett H. Young, Commander-in-Chief of the United Confederate Veterans also defends the cause of the Confederate soldier, the neo-Confederate cause of their descendants, and defends secession in his speech as follows: