Indy Parks wants to move confederate monument from Garfield Park

Posted at 8:46 PM, Aug 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-18 21:19:57-04

INDIANAPOLIS – Events in Charlottesville and other parts of the country involving confederate symbols, have caused cities to take a look at their own monuments as several people are asking them to be removed.

On Friday, the Director of Indy Parks Linda Broadfoot said the location of Indy's monument at Garfield Park may not be "appropriate for its original purpose."

"We are proud that Indy Parks is a department that serves the entire community, and it is clear that the historical marker in Garfield Park is not in a location appropriate for its original purpose," said Broadfoot. "Our intention is to work with the City-County Council and our philanthropic partners to explore all available options to remove the monument from Garfield Park and ensure that, if it is to be on public display, it is within a historical context that does not affect a Parks system that belongs to all Indianapolis residents."

The memorial commemorates the burial of 1,616 confederate soldiers who died at Camp Morton while prisoners of war. Local historians said unlike many of the monuments found across the country, the structure in Garfield Park does not attempt to glorify the confederate soldiers' cause.

“You don’t see a lot of Civil War monuments across the state because the battles largely, other than a raid…the Civil War wasn’t physically taking place in Indiana, so therefore people tend not the think about it,” said Dr. Ted Franz, University of Indianapolis History Professor. "But in fact, a prisoner of war camp right in the capitol of the city lets you know people felt this war far more direct than present memory would suggest.”

On Thursday afternoon, Indianapolis City-County Council President Maggie Lewis issued a statement:

This morning constituents have contacted several Councilors to express their concerns about the Confederate monument in Garfield Park. The monument commemorates the 1,616 Confederate soldiers who died here while prisoners of war at Camp Morton.

Last weekend white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, VA to protest the city’s plan to move a statue of Robert E. Lee. The protest turned violent; three people died and many others were injured.

Those who defend Confederate monuments often say they are about history and heritage, not racism, and to some degree that may be true. However, it is also true that, especially to the African-American community, they have always symbolized and glorified white supremacy.

Although this monument does not explicitly glorify the Confederacy or white supremacy, it should be noted that it was moved to Garfield Park in 1928, when the KKK and similar groups were a major force in Indiana politics. Also, the monument serves as a painful reminder that slaves were forced to fight for the Confederacy in order to perpetuate their own slavery. The black soldiers who died at Camp Morton are identified on the monument’s plaques as “Negro Slave.”

The Charlottesville “Unite the Right” marchers were motivated by bigotry and hate, not history and heritage.  We must not ignore that the purpose of the Confederacy was to preserve slavery.  Although the Garfield Park monument may be less offensive than others, it still merits a thoughtful and peaceful conversation about whether Garfield Park is the best location for it. I would be happy to help lead that conversation.

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