I had no idea that there were Confederate monuments in the state of California, so color me surprised when I found out that one of them was located in my beloved Hollywood at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. No need to get upset, though; after intense pressure from the public, the monument was removed early Wednesday morning.
The Los Angeles Times reports that a 6-foot granite monument with a bronze plaque saluting Confederate-army veterans who are buried in the cemetery had been standing since 1925. After the recent racist riots in Charlottesville, Va., the cemetery was inundated with phone calls, emails and social media rants asking that the monument be removed. An online petition was circulated, and on Tuesday the threats of vandalism to the monument came true in the form of the word “no” being written across the monument in black.
California is far west from the battlefields of the Civil War, and not the first place you would think of when it comes to the battle over slavery (I said what I said), but historians tell the Times that “racism ran rampant through the state” and the Emancipation Proclamation “was widely unpopular.” In addition, some high-profile state legislators spoke in favor of slavery or even went off to fight in the war on the side of the Confederacy.
Glenna Matthews, author of The Golden State in the Civil War, told the Times that although California was a Union state during the Civil War, Southern California was a “hotbed” of Confederate sympathizers. Many of them had migrated west from places like Texas and Kentucky. California even had its own Confederate newspaper.
Matthews told the Times, “In some ways, Los Angeles was a militarized town in order to keep the Union in control, because a lot of the local politicians supported the Confederacy.”
According to the Times, there are Confederate tributes scattered throughout the state.
One such monument, a plaque honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis, sat for decades in downtown San Diego’s Horton Plaza, but that plaque was also quietly removed by the city Wednesday.
When announcing the move, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said, “San Diegans stand together against Confederate symbols of division.”
This isn’t the first time California has confronted its racist history when it comes to public spaces. In 2009 a mountain peak in Malibu that was a memorial to a former slave had its name changed from Negrohead Mountain to John Ballard Mountain. It was originally called Niggerhead Mountain, a name it kept for more than 100 years until the 1960s, when the name was changed to Negrohead Mountain.
In 2014 the state banned the display or sale of merchandise with the Confederate flag on it.
The California division of United Daughters of the Confederacy is the owner of the marker that was removed from Hollywood Forever on Wednesday. The group told the Times that it does not condone violence, slavery or white supremacy, and it felt forced to remove the monument so that it would not be defaced or cause problems for the cemetery.
The monument will remain in storage for now.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.