The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Map: The 110 Confederate symbols that have come down since Charleston, and the 1,728 still standing

A statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, surrounded by Confederate and state flags, is still standing in Nashville. (Steven S. Harman/Tennessean)

A report released this week by the Southern Poverty Law Center finds that 110 monuments and other symbols of the Confederacy publicly displayed in the United States have been removed since the summer of 2015, when a white supremacist who venerated those symbols killed nine black parishioners at a Charleston church.

But more than 1,700 of the symbols still stand, protected in many places by recently passed laws preventing their removal.

The law center’s data set shows that authorities in some states have been more aggressive than others about removing symbols of the Confederacy. In Maryland, for instance, six out of the state’s eight total Confederate symbols — most notably a handful of statues taken down last year in Baltimore — have been removed. All that remains of the Confederacy in Maryland’s public square is a statue on the state’s Eastern Shore and a cul-de-sac in Potomac that was named after a Confederate general.

States in the heart of the old Confederacy have been more reluctant to remove their public symbols. Last year in Alabama, a school with 98 percent black enrollment and named after Confederate president Jefferson Davis renamed itself for President Barack Obama. But the state’s 121 remaining symbols of the Confederacy — statues, and the names of parks, highways, military bases and other public places — remain. Mississippi has removed just two of its 149 Confederate symbols. South Carolina took down one out of 195 public symbols — the Confederate flag that flew over the state capitol.

Confederate symbol removals in states with at least five public symbols before 2015

State Total symbols Removed symbols Percent removed
MD 8 6 75%
NY 5 2 40%
CA 10 3 30%
OK 18 5 28%
OH 6 1 17%
FL 74 9 12%
TX 240 31 13%
TN 107 8 7%
KY 41 3 7%
VA 256 14 5%
LA 86 3 3%
AR 66 2 3%
GA 205 6 3%
NC 175 5 3%
AL 122 1 1%
MS 149 2 1%
SC 195 1 1%
WV 21 0 0%
AZ 5 0 0%

The Southern Poverty Law Center advocates for the removal of all of those symbols. “Our public entities should no longer play a role in distorting history by honoring a secessionist government that waged war against the United States to preserve white supremacy and the enslavement of millions of people,” the group wrote in the introduction to its report.

According to the law center’s data, the bulk of public Confederate symbols were put in place in the early 1900s, with the rise of the Jim Crow era. Several decades later, the civil rights era of the 1950s and ’60s produced another surge of public Confederate symbolism.

Defenders of the monuments often say that they are symbols of heritage, not hatred. But their appearance during periods of racial tension suggests heritage can’t be easily disentangled from some white Southerners’ ideas about race. Social science researchers have consistently identified white residents in those states as among the most prejudiced in the nation — based, for instance, on the share of whites in those states who support laws against intermarriage, or on the use of racial slurs on social media.

For the time being, some white Southerners have vowed to put up new symbols of the Confederacy even as others are coming down. Since 2015, new Confederate monuments have been installed at sites in Texas and Virginia.

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