This letter features reporting from “The Friendliest Small Town in America” by Curtis Franklin, a Pulitzer Center reporting project
I recently watched a documentary called “The Friendliest Small Town in America” about the Murray State University coach, attorney, Marine veteran Sherman Neal II, who advocated for the relocation and/or removal of a Confederate monument of Robert E. Lee in Murray, Kentucky on the corner of the Calloway County Courthouse (Franklin). After sending a letter to the mayor of Murray, Neal obtained support of the university, and the city council voted unanimously to remove the statue. However, Calloway County fiscal court rejected the council’s decision and resolved to allow the statue to remain where it stands for as long as the owners of the monument and citizens of Calloway County wish for it to remain standing.
The aforementioned events, and issue as a whole, are just as relevant, if not more, in our community, as it is in Calloway County. The topic draws my individual attention and concern as I am a American Descendant of Slavery. While one can argue that the Confederacy fought for the states’ rights to govern themselves, everyone knows the reason they ultimately decided to secede from the Union was because they feared the federal government would come to the decision of completely stopping the spread of slavery into new states and abolish slavery.
As a descendant of the very people the Confederacy fought to keep in bondage, it behooves me to seek solutions for the subject of the removal/relocation of monuments that commemorate traitors and enemy combatants. I am glad, however, that our state is addressing the topic of Confederate memorialization. For example, as is well-known nationally, the redesigning of our state flag was a huge step in the right direction. However, even though our banner is one of inclusion and a symbol of our loyalty to the Union, there are still 131 Confederate monuments in public spaces throughout our state.
I propose that we relocate these monuments to the Vicksburg National Military Park, where they can be enjoyed and viewed with hundreds of other Confederate monuments and markers in a place dedicated to the preservation of history, and not in public spaces where they serve to promote the polarized state of our country, as well as devaluing the dignity of people such as myself.
Thank you for your attention,
Jackson Morris is a sophomore at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Ridgeland, Mississippi. He is a Star Scout pursuing the rank of Eagle Scout and is a volunteer for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.
Jackson was presented with the idea to enter the contest by his AP World History teacher, and jumped at the opportunity to talk about a subject he cares deeply about, as an African American and a self-declared history buff. Jackson is interested in science and music, but he takes special consideration for history and literature. He believes that these subjects are avenues of storytelling, and that every part of life has a story. He is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a global story calling for change.