Fate of the Civil War marker on Moreau Drive.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE?
On Monday, October 19, the Jefferson City Council voted by an 8-2 margin to remove a marker built by the United Daughters of the Confederacy once found on Moreau Drive. What is this UDC marker about, and why were advocates fighting for its removal?
The marker is a slab of rock with a plaque reading “Deciding against attack, the Confederate Army under Gen. Sterling Price turned from Jefferson City Oct. 7, 1864.” As it reads, this marker appears to simply note a specific historical event. But some say the marker promoted an inaccurate casting of the actual event and inappropriately gave the UDC a voice in the public sphere. Opponents of the proposal to remove the marker cited concerns for historical preservation.
So, what is it allegedly marking?
The marker references Confederate General Sterling Price (a slave owner and former Missouri Governor) and his 1864 campaign in Missouri to undermine the Civil War endgame happening in the east. Facing extensive fortifications and the Jefferson City Union garrison, Price was unlikely to succeed if he proceeded with an attack on the city and had no choice but to abandon the pursuit.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy gifted this marker to the city in 1933 amid a broader movement by neo-Confederate groups to promote a sympathetic “Lost Cause” narrative of the South. Historian Karen Cox, in “Dixie’s Daughters,” notes that the UDC’s goal was to teach new generations to “defend the principles of the Confederacy.” The UDC built hundreds of monuments and markers to that end, which went up in tandem with the implementation of Jim Crow laws that restricted the rights of Black Americans. This effort sought to perpetuate the white supremacist ideology that was being put to practice by Jim Crow policy.
Cox states, “There was nothing innocuous about imparting the Lost Cause narrative to a younger generation, as that narrative was replete with racial stereotypes, emphasized the inferiority of blacks, and exaggerated the benevolence of slave ownership.”
The conversation in Jefferson City was just one instance of a broader trend of communities across the U.S. grappling with the legacy of the revisionist history campaign of the UDC and other pro-Confederate groups. In June 2015, Dylann Roof murdered nine Black parishioners of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. A photo of Roof with Confederate flags circulated, spurring South Carolina to remove the flag from its statehouse grounds after large-scale community protests to do so. While activists had long advocated for the removal of Confederate symbols, the Emanuel AME shooting initiated a national reckoning. The nationwide conversation has received renewed attention in 2020 amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.
POINT: Keep the Marker
Opponents of the removal cited the need to preserve history. Multiple citizens noted the role of the marker as an educational symbol to teach the public about Jefferson City’s role in the Civil War. Numerous residents have expressed their personal experiences in learning about the Civil War through this marker.
Rebecca Ambrose, who lives one block from the marker, stated in public comment to the Jefferson City Historic Preservation Commission that the marker is important for teaching.
“Without that monument, there would be no known history of the Civil War in Jefferson City,” Ambrose says. “With that marker, we at least know that Confederate forces were in our neighborhood.”
“Without that monument, there would be no known history of the Civil War in Jefferson City.”Rebecca Ambrose
While some residents argue for the maintenance of the marker as is, others suggested that additional context be provided at the site of the UDC marker. Councilman Ron Fitzwater offered an amendment to keep the marker with additional context, but this amendment was denied by a 2-8 margin in the October 19 council meeting.
Less than 12 hours after the city council concluded their 8-2 vote, the marker was removed and will remain in a storage location until its ultimate fate is decided.
COUNTERPOINT: Remove the Marker and Create New Markers
Advocates, led by former Republican State Rep. Jay Barnes and Missouri NAACP chairman Rod Chapel Jr., who called for the removal of the marker, cited its lack of historicity and association with white supremacy as reasons warranting its removal.
The association of the UDC with white supremacy galvanized support for removal. According to Chapel, Jefferson City needed to remove the UDC marker to show that it is a welcoming place.
“When my wife and I moved to town and looked for a house to buy, we looked [in the Moreau neighborhood] but decided not to move there because we did not want to live in a neighborhood with a Confederate monument,” Chapel says. “This marker is a monument to hate. The deep ties between the UDC and the Ku Klux Klan have long been known.”
“The deep ties between the UDC and the Ku Klux Klan have long been known.”Rod Chapel
Other Jefferson City residents have shared their painful experiences of seeing this marker as a symbol of white supremacy.
Barnes also noted that the original UDC-inspired News Tribune article from 1933 is rife with inaccuracies about Mr. Price’s campaign, leading to the narrative being misconstrued to this day. This false narrative, Barnes argues, perpetuates a stylizing of Price as a noble gentleman that spared the city from destruction out of his benevolence. Also, the actual event in 1864 happened farther west, so the marker is not in the actual location of the event it attempts to represent.
Proponents of removal have advocated for new monuments and markers in Jefferson City to teach the history of Jefferson City and the Civil War. This includes the event noted on the UDC marker, but in a manner that is historically accurate and free from the white supremacist association of the UDC.
In early October, racist letters were anonymously sent to advocates for the removal. Multiple council members and community members cited this event as a reason why a compromise could not include keeping the marker in its original location.