JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA — Jacksonville’s first female mayor is working to remove the city’s most prominent monument dedicated to women.
On Monday, Mayor Donna Deegan proposed a $3.9 billion budget – the most expensive in the history of the city. The budget allocated $500,000 in taxpayer dollars for the “Removal of Confederate Monuments,” including the “Women of the Southland” statue in Springfield Park – formerly known as Confederate Park.
“We are looking at all potential options and Mayor Deegan remains committed to removing the Springfield Park monument,” Deegan’s Chief Communications Officer tweeted on Monday.
The six-foot bronze statue depicts a woman holding open a Bible as two young children stand next to her. The statue rests beneath a 47-foot marble rotunda. The prodigious monument was built to honor women of the Confederacy whose husbands, sons, fathers and brothers were killed during the Civil War.
DEEGAN: “WE SHOULD BE ASHAMED”
Deegan also hired activist Hope McMath to lead the Arts, Culture, and Entertainment Committee for the mayor’s transition team last month. McMath is part of the Take Em Down Jax, Jacksonville’s local BLM group. The group has advocated for changing the name of the city because Andrew Jackson – after whom Jacksonville was named – owned slaves.
Speaking at a Take Em Down Jax rally in June, Deegan said: “I have said repeatedly I would spend public money, just as our current mayor [Lenny Curry] has said he would do to remove those Confederate monuments to make sure that people don’t have to walk by them and be reminded of the time in our history, that quite frankly, we should be ashamed of.”
Local supporters of preserving the historic monuments flew a Confederate flag over the Downtown area during Deegan’s inauguration.
FINISHING WHAT CURRY STARTED
Deegan hopes to finish what her Republican predecessor, Lenny Curry, began in response to the BLM riots following the death of George Floyd. The day before attending a BLM protest in June 2020, Curry ordered the removal of a 62-foot Confederate monument. He did so by executive fiat – which many believe was unlawful – and without public notice. Construction crews operated in the middle of the night under the cover of darkness.
Curry promised the angry protesters that he would erase all traces of Confederate history in the city – including grave markers in cemeteries. In May, the Curry administration made several false statements when responding to questions about why the monument was demolished without warning and, again – during the middle of the night.
“WOMEN WHO SACRIFICED THEIR ALL”
Elwood Hemming, the great-great-nephew of the Civil War veteran who donated the statue that Curry took down, argued that erasing history ironically makes people more susceptible to the errors of the past.
“We need to remember history,” Hemming told News4Jax. “It amazes me how many 20- to 30-year-olds I talk to that have no idea what the Civil War was, what the Holocaust was. They don’t know. … It’s sad, and we’re going to repeat our history if we’re not careful.”
The plaque beneath the Women of the Southland statue reads: “Let this mute but eloquent structure speak to generations to come, of a generation of the past. Let it repeat perpetually the imperishable story of our women of the 60’s. Those noble women who sacrificed their all upon their country’s altar.”