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Committee supports removing Confederate Monument from Forest Park

Committee supports removing Confederate Monument from Forest Park

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ST. LOUIS • A committee of business and civic interests is formally recommending that a Confederate monument be dismantled and moved from the Forest Park site it has occupied for the past 101 years.

Seizing on an initiative sparked by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, the committee of business and civic leaders proposes that the disassembled obelisk be turned over to the Missouri Civil War Museum or stored in a “secure location” owned by the city.

In a report issued Thursday morning, the committee hedged on whether the St. Louis Board of Aldermen should ultimately decide the fate of the memorial.

But it acknowledged that the “legislative process could provide an appropriate and robust public and political forum in which to debate and decide the monument’s future.”

The committee placed the cost of deconstructing and moving the statue at $129,280.

Slay said Thursday that moving the monument was contingent on raising private funding to cover the expense.

Dedicated in 1914, the 32-foot granite shaft features a bas-relief fresco titled “The Angel of the Spirit of the Confederacy.”

The United Daughters of the Confederacy provided the bulk of the $23,000 funding for a monument that includes a sculpted interpretation of a family bidding farewell to a young Confederate soldier as he heads off to war.

An inscription memorializes “the soldiers and sailors of the Southern Confederacy, who fought to uphold the right declared by the pen of Jefferson and achieved by the sword of Washington …”

Except for a 50th anniversary re-dedication ceremony in 1964, the obelisk stood in relative obscurity until June when the statue entered the national conversation on race prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement and the outcry over the murder of nine parishioners in a church in Charleston, S.C., that led to the removal of the Confederate flag flying over that state’s capitol.

Slay had marked two months earlier the 100th anniversary year of the statue by questioning the appropriateness of a 20th-century celebration of the Confederacy in a region shaken by the 2014 civil unrest in Ferguson.

“The monument represents a peculiar memorial to what euphemistically was referred to in the American South as a ‘peculiar institution’ — slavery,” the mayor said.

Slay suggested that “wherever the (statute) is ultimately situated” it “should be accompanied by a description of the reality and brutality of slavery … Jim Crow and (the) de facto discrimination and segregation that are its continuing legacy.”

The mayor followed up by urging the Incarnate Word Foundation, a Catholic outreach organization, to appoint a five-member committee to study alternatives to the obelisk’s maintaining a presence in Forest Park.

The committee considered several relocation options, including placing the memorial at the Civil War Museum on the grounds of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, the campuses of local institutions of higher learning, the City Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park and other sites.

Only the Civil War Museum, however, submitted a proposal when the committee sought bids for the project.

In its “incomplete and non-responsive” proposal, the museum informed the committee that it was “not interested in submitting any detailed plans of interpretation or exhibition of the monument.”

Incarnate Word Foundation Executive Director Bridget Flood chaired the committee.

Other members were Dave Felling, a contractor specializing in historic salvage; former St. Louis School Board member Ron Jackson; lawyer and historian Stuart Symington Jr.; and Tony Thompson, the chief executive of Kwame Building Group, the largest minority contractor in the St. Louis region.

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Steve Giegerich is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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