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Erasing Confederate Place

By on December 3, 2002

By Andy Goss

Erasing Confederate Place

In the spirit of stifling free speech, sanitizing history and pursuing their goal of 100% political correctness, the University of Louisville is busy grinding another axe. If you are wondering what I am talking about, you are not alone. Most students are not aware that the university has plans to rename Confederate Place, the street on which many of the university’s Greek organizations reside, to something that “better represents the university and our goals of inclusiveness.” Also in the works is some sort of “change” in the Confederate monument located at the split between Second and Third Streets, the reason why Confederate Place is so named. According to a canned response from the Vice-President for Student Affairs, “‘Confederate Place’ has negative connotations to many who associate it with the pro-slavery position taken during the Civil War.”

If you know anything about the Civil War, you should know that it was not fought over slavery alone. Slavery is a scapegoat, just like economic and tariff policies were scapegoats that people use to this day to place labels on the South and the North and their reasons for going to war. Men do not fight and die for these things; at least not in the large numbers that were seen during the Civil War. Thousands of Southern soldiers were willing to walk thousands of miles, through sunshine and rain. They lived in miserable conditions with bad food and rampant disease; many would end up dead in shallow, unmarked graves. Why did they do it? If you read the letters of the soldiers of both the Confederacy and the Union, you will realize that most of them knew they were probably going to die a brutal death. Towards the end of the war in 1864-65, Southerners knew they were going to lose, and yet they were still willing to fight and die. Why?

The reasons can only be attributed to the confrontation of two conflicting central ideas about what America was. The South believed that their forefathers had created an America that was dependent on local (state) governance, and that the federal government should not have as much power as it was seeking. They believed that the nation was just something the state belonged to, and a state could withdraw from it at any time. On the other hand, President Lincoln and the North believed that America was essential to making the world a better place, and that a fractured America would never progress and never be a true world leader. The North wanted some unified policies that they whole nation would subscribe to. The issue of slavery was just an effect of the Civil War.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky and the City of Louisville are both steeped in Civil War history. Throughout the region, you will find examples of Civil War heritage that still exist today. Cave Hill National Cemetery, located at Baxter Ave and East Broadway, contains a monument to the Union soldiers who died in the war amongst the scores of gravesites for soldiers that died fighting for one side or the other. There is no doubt that Kentucky was a border state, and the prevalence of historical markers and monuments memorializing both sides of the war clearly illustrates that. There is even a marker on our own Belknap Campus marking the site as a Union barracks and parade ground. The Confederate monument is simply another memorial to those Kentuckians who lost their lives.

So for those of you who are offended when you see the word “Confederate,” I ask you to seriously ask yourself why you are so offended. The word “Confederate” does not mean hate towards another race, nor does it bear any reference to oppression or slavery. The term “Confederate” was simply applied to the states that seceded from the union. When you see the word “Confederate,” think about all the causes of the war between the North and South, not just that some Southerners owned slaves. The Civil War happened; lots of lives were lost on both sides, and like it or not, it will always be a part of our history as a city and as a nation. We can’t change history, and we shouldn’t try to change it by sugarcoating everything. Confederate Place and its namesake, the Confederate monument, exist as a tribute to the many Kentuckians who fought and died in the Civil War not because they wanted to own slaves, but because they believed in a cause to keep governing powers in the hands of the states.

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