This morning, Wednesday, June 21, 2017, the Hillsborough County Commission considered a motion by one of its commissioners, Les Miller, to remove the Confederate Soldiers Monument on the plaza before the County Courthouse Annex, caddy corner from the County Center Office building, and around the corner from the County Courthouse.
More than forty citizens, including me, came to offer the commission advice on the matter.
Here’s what I had to say at that time:
Testimony offered to the County Commissioners on June 21, 2017.
I am Bernard Leikind. I live at 3215 Taragrove Drive in north Carrollwood. I teach physics at the Univ. of Tampa, and I’m an amateur student of Florida history. Hello to Commissioner Crist, my commissioner, and to Commissioners Miller and White, and to the other Commissioners.
In 1860, Florida had 140,000 residents. Of these about 62,000 were black slaves. 80,000 white residents, 60,000 black residents.
From the white population, about 15,000 Florida men fought for the Confederacy, and about 5,000 died. The Confederate Soldiers Monument honors their courage and sacrifice on behalf of their cause.
Some white Floridians remained loyal to the United States. More than 2000 of them enlisted in two Florida Calvary regiments of the United States Army. Others served in the United States Navy. Hillsborough County’s Monument does not honor their loyalty and bravery.
More than 5,000 Florida black men escaped from slavery to the territory controlled by the United States Army in Florida and enlisted in regiments of the United States Colored Troops. These brave men fought for their freedom and that of their still enslaved brothers and sisters. Hillsborough County’s Monument does not honor these men for their courage, loyalty to the United States, or their cause.
Across the sidewalk from the Confederate Soldiers Monument, Hillsborough County honors United States military men and women in wars beginning with the Spanish-American War. The County honors all the warriors who fought for our freedoms in these wars.
Why does the County honor only white Floridians who fought for the Confederacy and does not honor the thousands of Florida soldiers and sailors who loyally fought to preserve our United States and for the freedom of black slaves?
The Confederate Soldiers Monument should be removed from County property, and replaced with a Civil War Memorial that honors all Floridians, and Americans, who fought in that war.
Here’s tomorrow’s Tampa Bay Times lead story on the commissioners meeting and decision: Hillsborough Commissioners vote to keep Confederate monument in downtown Tampa . As you can see from the headline, my golden words and those of many others were insufficient to sway the majority of commissioners.
On Sunday, the Times ran a good story on the monument and its history. Around 1911, the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised the funds, commissioned the two statues, stele, and words. They donated the work to an apparently grateful (all white) County Commission. The monument stood on the square before the old courthouse until 1951, when it was moved to its present location in front of what is now the Court Annex. Here’s the Times article , For Tampa’s Confederate monument, racist history clouds claims of heritage . The reporter, Steve Contorno, looked up the newspaper accounts of the monument’s dedication. Here’s a key paragraph:
In remarks at the monument’s dedication — a monument that its modern supporters insist doesn’t symbolize the suppression of black Americans — the keynote speaker, state attorney Herbert S. Phillips, had this to say:
“The South stands ready to welcome all good citizens who seek to make their homes within her borders. But the South detests and despises all, it matters not from whence they came, who, in any manner, encourages social equality with an ignorant and inferior race.”
The Times also had a good editorial Editorial: Hillsborough’s Confederate monument should be removed .
Tampa is the county seat for Hillsborough County. The city has about 300,000 residents and the county about 1.3 million. St. Petersburg and Clearwater, the other important cities of the Bay area are in Pinellas County. Thus the main County offices are in Tampa’s downtown.
There were a couple dozen Monument supporters from the United Sons of the Confederacy, waving signs and small Confederate flags, but they weren’t the only supporters of the Monument. As I talk to locals about this monument, many longtime residents, including my darling wife, a Tampa native, are surprised that such a thing exists. She noticed it for the first time three years ago when we went for our marriage license. There are plenty of people, especially from minority groups, who know about this, and the commissioners were surprised and impressed, so they said, by the large turnout for this motion.