Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Confederate statue might get company

Louisville officials say Union memorials would add balance

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A century-old Confederate monument surrounded by the University of Louisville campus may someday be flanked by other memorials more broadly reflecting the area's Civil War heritage.

U of L trustees unanimously approved a plan Monday to create a Freedom Park on a swath of land on the north end of campus that features the towering monument to Confederate war dead.

Blaine Hudson, chairman of U of L's Department of Pan-African Studies, said the monument represents only a portion of the area's Civil War experience. He noted that thousands of Union troops, both white and black, were stationed in Louisville during the war.

"They were not here as an army of occupation," he told the trustees. "They were Union soldiers in a Union city in a Union state."

Kentucky was a slave state that sent men to the Federal and Confederate armies but never seceded from the Union.

"The point here is not that the Confederate monument represents a part of the Civil War experience that was not factual," Mr. Hudson said. "It's that the Civil War monument represents only one relatively small part of a larger complex of facts.

"What we hope to do with Freedom Park is to put all the historical information on the table and develop an interpretation that reflects as accurately as possible the totality of the Civil War and the late Antebellum experience of this area."

The monument was erected in 1895 - 30 years after the war - by the Kentucky Women's Confederate Monument Association. The monument sits on city property and bisects two busy streets cutting through campus.

The monument features two soldiers on either side of its base and is topped by another soldier holding a rifle.

An inscription says the monument was dedicated as a "Tribute to the Rank and File of the Armies of the South" and "To Our Confederate Dead." It also features the seal of the Confederate States of America.

Through the years, some students and faculty expressed unease about the monument's presence near the heart of Belknap campus, said Larry Owsley, U of L vice president for finance and administration.

Trustee Nathaniel Green, who is black, praised how the 21,000-student university has handled what could have been a controversial situation.

"Apparently we have taken on the approach of working together to resolve history's dilemmas, and I think that's the appropriate way a university should be functioning," he said.

For decades, the monument was away from the U of L campus, Mr. Owsley said. As the university grew, the campus eventually surrounded the monument.

The monument itself will remain untouched on one corner of the property that will encompass Freedom Park, Mr. Owsley said.

"We are going to respect the monument for what it is - a monument to Confederate soldiers who died during the war," he said.

The city owns one tip of the triangular-shaped property and the fringes of the planned park. The university owns the rest. City and university leaders have been discussing the venture, Mr. Owsley said.

The plan calls for a plaza envisioned to include a statue and other exhibits to commemorate the struggle for freedom, Mr. Owsley said.

A group of faculty and administrators will be formed to carry out plans for the park, he said. The group will help decide the design for the sculpture and raise private funds to hire an artist.

The park also would encompass an existing playhouse that could be used as a forum for performing arts and lectures, he said. The playhouse was built in 1874 and was moved to its current site in 1980.

Other facets of the park would include historical markers as well as a battlefield memorial dotted by trees transplanted from such Civil War battle sites as Antietam, Shiloh and Chickamauga, Mr. Owsley said. Plans are to dedicate the park on Jan. 20 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The university also decided Monday to remove the name Confederate Place from a one-block street near the Confederate monument and rename it Unity Place, effective Jan. 1, Mr. Owsley said. The one-way street runs past several fraternity and sorority houses.

Mr. Owsley said the new name reflected a consensus among students, faculty and administrators.

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