A study from the University of Virginia published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week found that counties in ex-Confederate states with more Confederate memorials had more lynchings.
Lead by social psychology researcher Kyshia Henderson, data scientist Samuel Powers and professors Sophie Trawalter, Michele Claibourn and Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi at U-Va.’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the study, they concluded, “provides compelling evidence that these symbols are associated with hate” and racism, and not more innocuous things like “heritage” or “Southern pride.”
The researchers compared data from counties that had lynchings between 1832 and 1950 with data on Confederate memorials. In any given area, the number of lynchings was a “significant predictor” for the number of memorials, as explained in the Washington Post.
“We can’t pinpoint exactly the cause and effect. But the association is clearly there,” Trawalter said. “At a minimum, the data suggests that localities with attitudes and intentions that led to lynchings also had attitudes and intentions associated with the construction of Confederate memorials.”
The researchers say the findings are correlational and do not make any claims that one causes the other. Research wasn’t done on Confederate memorials or lynchings in states that weren’t part of the Confederacy.
Here is more on this study, per the Post:
The study did not include another recent study that looked at nearly 50,000 public monuments throughout the United States found that Confederate Gen. Lee was the sixth most honored historical figure, after Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther King Jr. and St. Francis of Assisi. Of 5,917 monuments in the study that mentioned the Civil War, only 1 percent also mentioned slavery.
“Where inequalities and injustices exist, monuments often perpetuate them,” the authors of that report said.
Confederate flags and monuments have been largely ignored or defended by a majority of Americans for decades. Public opinion has shifted somewhat following several major events, including the 2015 racist murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., the 2017 white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, and the 2020 protests following the murder of George Floyd. But in 2021, a majority of Americans — though a smaller one — thought Confederate memorials should stay, according to several polls. Polling expert Ariel Edwards-Levy pointed out in HuffPost that responses depend largely on how the poll questions are worded.
The authors of the study say their report builds on past studies that find that Confederate memorials and racist lynchings rose in unison around the United States during Jim Crow and that speakers who spoke at dedications of those memorials used white supremacist taking points at least half of the time.