Kentucky’s NAACP chapter is renewing efforts to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis from the state capitol rotunda after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
“It is an issue that speaks to today’s society and where we are in America in terms of race,” said Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP.
Cunningham said the statue is offensive to African-Americans and that Davis, former president of the Confederate States of America, is falsely regarded as a hero.
“That he was not. He was a traitor to the United States government, aside from the other convictions he had in regard to slavery,” said Cunningham.
White supremacist groups descended on Charlottesville over the weekend to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. One person died and more than 30 were injured in the rally, where a driver rammed a car into a group of counter-protesters. Two Virginia state troopers also died in a helicopter crash.
The NAACP has for years pushed for the removal of the white marble representation of Jefferson Davis in Kentucky’s capitol building. Two years ago, state politicians from both parties joined the effort after nine people were fatally shot at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The incident prompted several state governments in the South to re-evaluate Confederate symbols on state properties.
But Kentucky’s Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted against relocating the statue, instead promising to create new ways of educating Capitol visitors about “the context of the Civil War.”
“Which I don’t think is going to do any good, I think it’s a folly,” Cunningham said in an interview on Monday. “But if that’s what they want to do, we can’t stop them from doing that. But we can keep up our efforts to get the statue removed.”
Gov. Matt Bevin was one of the Kentucky political leaders who pushed for the statue’s removal back in 2015 when he was running for his current position.
The governor’s office didn’t answer emailed questions about removing the statue, or questions regarding the rally by white supremacists in Charlottsville over the weekend.
Bevin’s only response on the issue was a Tweet mourning the Virginia state troopers who died in the helicopter crash.
“Hearts broken for the families of 2 Virginia State Troopers who paid the ultimate sacrifice today responding to hateful, mindless mayhem,” Bevin said.
After the violence in Charlottesville, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced that he would speed up plans to remove statues of two confederate generals from the lawn of the old Fayette County Courthouse, which is being turned into a visitor’s center.
And in Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer directed his Commission on Public Art to review the city’s public art, and determine whether any of the city’s pieces could be interpreted to be “honoring bigotry, racism and/or slavery.”
The Jefferson Davis statue in the capitol rotunda was commissioned in 1932 using funds raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and a $5,000 appropriation from the Kentucky legislature.
The Historic Properties Advisory Commission is in charge of the statues in the rotunda, which also include figures of U.S. Senator Henry Clay, Vice President Alben Barkley and pioneer surgeon Ephraim McDowell.