Louisville historian warns against trying to scrub history - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville historian warns against trying to scrub history

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Erected in 1895, the 70-foot tall Confederate Memorial stands in the middle of one of U of L's busiest intersections. Erected in 1895, the 70-foot tall Confederate Memorial stands in the middle of one of U of L's busiest intersections.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Pressure is growing to remove the statue of Jefferson Davis from the Capitol Rotunda as Democratic candidate for governor, Jack Conway, joined Republican Matt Bevin in calling for the statue to be placed in a museum.

But a prominent historian warns against trying to scrub history.

Historian and Metro Councilman Tom Owen says monuments, such as the Jefferson Davis statue and the Confederate Memorial at the University of Louisville, should not be lumped together with controversy over the Confederate battle flag.

Erected in 1895, the 70-foot tall Confederate Memorial stands in the middle of one of U of L's busiest intersections.

“The Daughters of the Confederacy funded that monument, and it was placed there,” said Owen.

But over the years, it has been a source of controversy.

“Every decade or so there's a challenge to pull down the Confederate monument,” he said.

Gabriel Draper, president of U of L's Minority Association of Graduate Students, admits he hates it.

“It reminds me of pain,” he said.

He believes the statue's location sends a bad message, especially to African-American students.

“If students feel like this is what we're supporting, if this is what we're showing, it's a mixed signal, probably, from what they intend,” said Draper.

Draper says students have discussed trying to have the statue removed, but Owen believes that's a bad idea.

“If we start choosing up which monuments and markers this year we're going to tear down, then we'll tear down another set ten years from now,” he said.

Owen says U of L has done the right thing by spending some $2 million to build Freedom Park -- a tribute to Louisville's civil rights icons -- alongside the Confederate statue.

“Winners and losers, good times and bad, tensions and warts; all of those things are juxtaposed as a matter of interpretation. And to me that's what should be done,” he said.

Draper says he does appreciate Freedom Park, but is still concerned that the Confederate statue overshadows it.

“I think they probably should move it or at least do some more contextual work because the way it is right now, it kind of stands on its own island as a representation. Everybody's coming past this. It's a lot more obvious,” he said.

As for the Davis statue in the Capitol Rotunda, Owen says more information should be added to place Davis and Kentucky's role in the Civil War, in their proper historical context.

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