• November 21, 2019

GUEST VIEW: Relocating statues won’t change history - Odessa American: Guest Columns

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GUEST VIEW: Relocating statues won’t change history

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Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2019 3:30 am

For more than 80 years, the main entrance of the University of Texas campus was a sublime display of art, a utopia revered throughout the world. Surrounding the lawn, where nerds play ultimate frisbee and young lovers engage in PDA, were six colossal sculptures of influential southern statesmen.

One could learn from reading the pink granite pedestals that Robert E. Lee wasn’t only a Confederate General, but also superintendent of West Point and president of Washington College (renamed “Washington & Lee” in his honor). There was Albert Sidney Johnston, who served as a general for three countries: Republic of Texas, Confederate States, United States. And let’s not forget Woodrow Wilson, who was president of Princeton University and governor of New Jersey, before becoming the only commander-in-chief to have a PhD.

But now the lawn is bleak, empty, and desolate, with nothing left other than vacant pedestals to remind us that “sensitivity” can override our basic academic rights.

I am proudly the direct descendant of a Confederate soldier. As Texans, we should not be ashamed of our heritage.

The Constitution of the Confederate States mentions slavery three times: The first was to prohibit the importation of slaves (this had been U.S. law since 1808). The “Peculiar Institution” was, sadly, still permitted among those already living in the United States, as it was in other agrarian societies.

But relocating artifacts to storage units will not change our history. It will, instead, reopen wounds of the past.

The Littlefield Memorial is not a tribute to slavery: It is about the transformation into an industrialized civilization that no longer required forced, unpaid labor to drive our economy. It shows us the transition from the antebellum “Old South” to the post-reconstruction “New South.”

This memorial is unique: It is both a Confederate and World War I exhibit. George W. Littlefield, the regent who funded the project, was a major in the Confederate Army. When the memorial was commissioned in 1919, the UT community wanted to also honor the Longhorns who died fighting in the World War.

Their names are listed on a plaque behind the fountain, which is of course named after Mr. Littlefield. That huge red Victorian mansion on campus was his house; the Littlefield dormitory is named after his wife, Alice.

No words can convey the importance of this man to our university. Without him, we would certainly not be the world-renowned institution we are today. It is truly shameful that only one of the six statues he paid for has been reinstalled on campus.

I am calling upon Texans everywhere to demand that President Fenves do the same with the remaining five.

Hopefully you all get a chance to check out the sculpture of Gov. James Hogg on the east side of the tower. Please do not fat-shame him. Seriously, pilates and cross-fit were not available in the 1890s.

Just observe the remarkable attention to detail; think of the talent required to produce such a spectacular work of art.

Now, imagine the south entrance of campus restored to its original elegance, as it was from 1933 until 2015-2017. This dream can become reality – but only if you send an email to president@utexas.edu, asking the university to reinstall the statues of the Littlefield Memorial at their original location. That’s where they belong.

Andrew England is a senior at the University of Texas, majoring in history.

Odessa, TX

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