Jan 11, 2023 - News

Manatee County to consider bringing Confederate monument back

A bicyclist in a yellow polo and jeans rides past the granite obelisk commemorating Confederate soldiers in Bradenton in 2017.

The granite obelisk, pictured here in 2017, commemorates Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, and the memory of Confederate soldiers. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The newly formed all-Republican Manatee County Board of Commissioners will discuss re-installing a 22-foot monument to Confederate soldiers that was removed from the Bradenton courthouse lawn in 2017.

Driving the news: Most commissioners approved of discussing the idea at a future meeting after three residents, including one representing a conservative group called Manatee Patriots, raised the issue last week, the Bradenton Herald reports.

  • Two commissioners were opposed, with one objecting because putting it back up would "start a firestorm."

What they're saying: "I don't like ignoring our history. It is what it is. Some things about it are good, some things aren't, but it's our history," said commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who voted against taking the monument down in 2017, per the Herald. "We shouldn't be changing our history."

The idea drew both support and outrage from community members during public comment at Tuesday's County Commission meeting.

  • "It is a complete and utter slap in the face as a Black woman that lives in this community," said Sarah Parker, who leads Women's Voices of Southwest Florida, per WFLA.

The big picture: As of February 2022, there were 77 Confederate memorials still present in Florida, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been tracking public symbols of the Confederacy.

  • About 30 Confederate memorials have been removed or renamed in the state since 2015.

Flashback: In August 2017, Manatee County's memorial was removed following a clash of protesters and counter-protesters in downtown Bradenton.

  • It was broken during removal, and put in storage. It will cost around $40,000 to fix, the Herald reports.

Context: The marker was erected in 1924, some 60 years after the Civil War, during the Jim Crow era and the second rise of the Ku Klux Klan following the release of DW Griffith's film "The Birth of a Nation."

  • The year before, 120 miles north, neighboring whites burned the Black town of Rosewood and killed six residents.
  • "Throughout the years, this shaft of eternal stone will stand as a witness for the men who fought, suffered and died for the South," Bradenton Mayor Whitney Curry said at the time.
  • No Civil War battles occurred in Manatee County, and no Confederate volunteers from Manatee are known to have died during the war.

What's ahead: Commissioners have not said when the issue will be discussed, but any decision will need to be put up for a vote before the commission.


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