Texas removes statue of Jefferson Davis
The University of Texas at Austin (UT) is moving a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, to a museum.
On Monday, the UT Task Force on Historical Representation of Statuary published a report that recommended that the university remove statues that honor several U.S. and Confederate leaders.
"As a public university, it is vital that we preserve and understand our history and help our students and the public learn from it in meaningful ways."
The statues in question, placed in the university’s Main Mall, depict Confederate leaders like General Robert E. Lee, Confederate Postmaster General and Texas Democratic Party leader John Reagan, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis alongside U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (D) and Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg (D). All but a nearby statue of U.S. President George Washington were commissioned by one of UT’s earliest benefactors, George Littlefield, a well-off Confederate veteran.
“As a public university, it is vital that we preserve and understand our history and help our students and the public learn from it in meaningful ways,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves said in an official press release.
The statue depicting Jefferson Davis is being moved to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, where it will be placed in an American history exhibit.
The task force behind the recommendation was formed by UT Austin President Gregory Fenves in June. Fenves charged the task force “with identifying and evaluating options for addressing the controversial statues that line the university’s Main Mall, especially the statue of Jefferson Davis.”
The twelve-member task force, which was composed of faculty, alumni, staff, and current students, met six times and collected feedback from two public forums, emails, phone calls, and an online submission form.
UT Austin’s Dr. Gregory Vincent, Vice President for diversity and community engagement, led the task force. Dr. Vincent has told local news that, "there are certainly sentiments expressed about how offensive these statues are...and are not consistent with our university values.”
According to the report, over 3,100 people contacted the task force with an opinion. Thirty-three percent favored removing the statue of Jefferson Davis and another 33 percent wanted the statues to remain in place. Twenty-seven percent wanted every statue removed. Seven percent offered other solutions.
“We considered a number of options for statue relocation — some presented by task force members, others by members of the public,” Dr. Vincent stated.
The report outlined several options or President Fenves. The first was to leave the statues in place but add explanatory plaques “that would enhance the educational value of the six statues and give historical context.” The second option was to relocate Jefferson Davis’s statue elsewhere on campus.
The third, fourth, and fifth options consisted of removing various combinations of the six statues. Only the fifth recommendation included removing every statue.
Aside from their recommendations, Dr. Vincent made it clear that, “[i]n the end, the majority of task force members believed that if the statues were to be relocated, the Briscoe Center for American History offered the best solution for keeping the statuary on campus as the donor wished but placing them in a more educational setting.”
Dr. Vincent and the UT Austin Division of Diversity and Community Engagement did not return requests for comment in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mikemcgrady2