Mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray (D) has recently announced two Confederate statues on the old courthouse lawn will be moved. In 2015, the Urban County Arts Review Board suggested the statues be moved, and after the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., Mayor Gray has “accelerated the announcement” he intended to make this week. The two statues in question are of John Hunt Morgan, a Confederate general, and John C. Breckenridge, 14th vice president of the U.S. and former Secretary of War for the Confederacy. Both men are from Lexington, Kentucky.
I support the mayor relocating the statues away from Main Street and to Veterans Park in south Lexington. These statues are not being removed from public or destroyed, although I would prefer they not stand on government property. These two men abandoned the Union when they were needed the most. Both men advocated for the restoration of the Union without violence, and when Lincoln fought to supress the rebellion, both men fled to join the Confederacy. These men did not stand for state or country. John C. Breckenridge and John Hunt Morgan contributed to the death of Kentuckians, and while they could be remembered as historical figures, they should not be memorialized as heroes of Kentucky on Main Street at the historical site of the slave auction in Lexington.
These statues were commissioned during the height of Jim Crow law in 1887 and 1911 to remind Lexington who is in charge and remember the past of the spot in which they were memorialized. They are a remnant of a past of which Kentucky should not take pride. The statues should be replaced with real heroes from Lexington, such as Alfred Francis Russell. Russel was an emancipated slave from Lexington who later became the tenth president of Liberia, a country on the western coast of Africa settled by freedmen and former American slaves under the American Colonization Society.
The statues of John C. Breckenridge and John Hunt Morgan will continue to stand for the foreseeable future, whether on Main Street or in the Veterans Park. However, as long as these and many other statues of Confederate soldiers remain on Kentucky state property, we may never move on from our violent past of hatred and begin to focus on a brighter, more peaceful future.