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Confederate Monument-Tuskegee
Robert C. Ogden, William Howard Taft, Booker T. Washington and Andrew Carnegie, left to right, stand on the steps of a building in April 1906 during the 25h anniversary celebration of what is now Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala. Taft would later become president. The event was held at the same time a Southern heritage group, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, was raising money to erect a Confederate monument that was dedicated in 1909 and still stands at the center of the mostly black city. (Frances Benjamin Johnston/Library of Congress via AP)

History shared but unreconciled in city's Confederate statue

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By Jay Reeves

TUSKEGEE, Ala. (AP) — In 1906, when aging, white Confederate veterans of the Civil War and black ex-slaves still lived on the old plantations of the Deep South, two very different celebrations were afoot in this city known even then as a beacon of black empowerment.

Tuskegee Institute, founded to educate Southern blacks whose families had lived in bondage for generations, was saluting its 25th anniversary.

Meanwhile, area whites were preparing to dedicate a monument to rebel soldiers in a downtown park set aside exclusively for white people.

Flash forward to today and that same Confederate monument still stands in the same park, both of them owned by a Confederate heritage group. They sit in the heart of a poor, black-controlled town of 9,800 people that's less than 3 percent white.

Students from what's now Tuskegee University once tried and failed to tear down the old gray statue, which has since become a target for vandals. But critics who want it gone aren't optimistic about removing it, even as similar monuments come down nationwide.

"I think it would probably take a bomb to get it down," said Dyann Robinson, president of the Tuskegee Historic Preservation Commission.

The story of how such a monument could be erected and still remain in place a century later offers lessons in just how hard it can be to confront a shared history that still divides a nation.

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