Today: Jun 17, 2024

History and Political Science departments host historical event

Jay’Mi Vazquez – News Editor

In recent years, it has been a common debate among historians and the public whether statues commemorating Confederates should be removed. 

On Nov. 29, the university’s history and political science departments hosted a discussion with the lead historian of the Naming Commission, Connor Williams. Williams discussed the importance of why Confederate statues are being removed globally and provided examples of what the commission has done since its start in 2021. 

“As we change these commemorations, take their names off military bases, we are not so much erasing history as we are rediscovering history as it existed,” Williams said. “There are statues coming down all across the United States.” 

Williams said that statues being removed is one of the oldest problems humanity has faced, sharing a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley titled “Ozymandias.” 

Williams and the seven other members of the Naming Commission have been looking at army bases that were named after Confederate officers. They have changed a total of six army base names after advocating for nine to be changed.  

“For two years, the commission toured the country. We went to 10 different bases that had Confederate names,” Williams said. “We wrote three reports to Congress that outlined our recommendations.” 

One Confederate statue that has yet to be removed is the Arlington National Cemetary Confederate Memorial. Williams said everything about the monument is problematic from top to bottom with inaccurate history portrayed. 

Williams described the process the Naming Commision would do to get suggestions to change the army bases names. 

“We wanted to listen to the people,” Williams said. “We had 35,000 submissions with 3,500 unique names. Then from there, we had 450 meritorious candidates and a shortlist of 87 finalists.” 

Williams said that the Naming Commission is mandated by Congress. The commission would report their findings to Congress, gaining support from 50 military officers in the process. However, the Naming Commission is still an independent organization.  

History professor Stephen Amerman said that the overall event was great. The discussion about Confederate statues and Confederate-named army bases is one he wants to happen more so that people and students are aware.  

“Connor Williams was able to draw upon his very interesting experience to give us a very informed, thoughtful, knowledgeable and important presentation,” Amerman said.  

Amerman said that there are several steps that historians take into consideration before they change or remove a Confederate statue. The first step in this process is acknowledging that it can be important. The next few steps are to work on trying to sort things out to try to figure out what actually happened in the past. 

“It’s worth communities, or states, or the nation as a whole having conversations about why a statue was put up in the first place and when and by who and why,” Amerman said.  

Amerman said the controversy over the removal of Confederate statues and over re-naming military bases named after Confederates reminds us that history is also something that people can get passionate about and can argue about.    

“Removing a statue does not mean that history is being erased, though that’s a charge that has been frequently leveled against the practice,” Amerman said.   

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