The Tampa Confederate Soldiers Monument

Wayne,

I sent my Tampa Tribune about the Confederate Soldiers Monument to my Hillsborough County Commissioner, and to the County Administrator. My commissioner said that my essay was good, but he wasn’t going to do anything about the monument. The Administrator forwarded it to the Director of Real Estate and Facilities. He and I corresponded a little. Last night, I received this e-mail from him.

Dear Mr. Leikind,

Thank you for your interest and inquiry into the confederate soldier monument located at the County facility at 419 Pierce Street. As you know the monument was donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911 and stood in front of the old County courthouse until its demolition in 1953. The monument was moved to the next courthouse which was built in 1952 at 419 Pierce Street, where it stands today. The 419 Pierce Street building is now used as an administrative building for the court system, as the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse constructed in 2004 replaced 419 Pierce as the County’s main courthouse.

 The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners made a historic decision recently, voting unanimously to remove the confederate flag displayed in the lobby of the County Center, recognizing that a portion of the constituency considers it offensive to actively fly the flag over the county commission or the city hall or the state capitol. However, commissioners expressed a need to recognize and honor the dead via monuments which were erected by the southern states. The County also has an ongoing project at the Veterans Memorial Park to erect a monument to honor all veterans of the Civil War.

 Very respectfully

 Joshua Bellotti, P.E.

Director

Real Estate & Facilities Services

Hillsborough County BOCC

So, the answer is that they aren’t going to do anything about the Confederate Soldiers Monument, but they are creating another location at which they intend to recognize all soldiers who fought in the Civil War, rebels or U S Army.

I sent back this e-mail in which I propose that if they are going to leave that monument in place, then they should place signs and such to place it into proper historical context. That should include the context of the Civil War, fought for slavery, and of the Jim Crow era during which the United Daughters of the Confederacy put up this and similar monuments throughout the South, and in some border states.

Dear Mr. Bellotti,

Thank you for your consideration of my suggestion to deal properly with the Confederate Soldiers Monument.

You referred to the County’s decision to remove the “Confederate Blood-Stained Banner” from the lobby of its office building. You, and the Commissioners, are correct that the flags of that rebellion are offensive to the county’s black residents. Indeed, as the banner of white supremacist slave owners who rose in armed revolt against the government and people of the United States, the banner is offensive to patriotic citizens of the United States.

As for the Monument at 419 Pierce Street, I take your point that the building, which says Hillsborough County Courthouse over its entrance, is now an administrative center. Indeed, it was while visiting that building to obtain our marriage license that my wife and I examined the Monument and the War Memorial. Perhaps Hillsborough County’s black residents do not have to pass by that monument on their way to seek justice in court. But if the soldiers shown on that monument and called “patriots” had won their fight, then Tampa’s black residents of the 1860s would not have been able to legally marry. They would have had no legal rights at all, even to maintain their families against their owners’ wishes to relocate them or sell them.

As you can see in the photo, the Confederate Soldiers Monument has a representation of the Confederate Battle Flag on the obelisk. While it is true that there are many similar monuments throughout the South, and even in some border Northern states, these were not erected by those states. The Tampa Monument, for example, was conceived, commissioned, and paid for by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1910 and 1911. The County Commissioners accepted it as a gift.

At that time, Hillsborough County’s population was about 80,000 people of whom about 20% were black. We have every reason to expect that the County was not accepting this monument on their behalf. At that time, 1910 and 1911, decades of terrorism and state actions had disenfranchised them despite the 15th Amendment.

Perhaps, the County could prepare and mount additional historical material to accompany the historical monument sign that is there. This new material should place this monument in its proper historical context as the product of Jim Crow era and Lost Cause theorizing. I’d be happy to help with this, but I’m an amateur. The commissioners would probably prefer to consult with scholars such as Mr. Rodney Kite-Powell, the curator at the Tampa History Center, or Dr. Gary Mormino, an emeritus professor at the Univ. of South Florida, who has written books about Tampa and Florida history. As the supporters of these monuments (and the Confederate Battle Flag) always assert that they are only interested in heritage and not racism, they ought to have no objection to accurate historical information. Shouldn’t there be something there that says that the men honored by the Monument fought against the United States Army and its white and black soldiers? Indeed, the Union men who fought in Florida’s few Civil War battles were, mostly, loyal white Florida men and freed black Florida slaves.

For your interest here are a few good books about Tampa and the Civil War.

By Univ. of Florida history professor Canter Brown, Jr. Tampa Before the Civil War, and Tampa In Civil War and Reconstruction. These are publications of the Tampa History Center and the U. of Tampa. I got them from the County Library. By T. D. Allman, Finding Florida. This is a vigorous and colorful history, with a definite point of view, by a Miami journalist. It is an antidote to the usual school and popular history of the South.

Can we discuss placing this monument in its proper historical context?

Sincerely yours,

Bernard Leikind
Carrollwood

Confederate Soldiers Monument detail

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