The State Preservation Board unanimously voted to remove a plaque from the Texas Capitol that extols the “heroic deeds” of the Confederate Army and denies the Civil War was fought to sustain slavery.
After years of public controversy, the board voted in a five-minute meeting Jan. 11 to take down the plaque placed by the Children of the Confederacy in 1959. The board did not indicate what would be done with the plaque after its removal.
The auxiliary to the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the plaque in a hallway on the first floor of the Texas Capitol 98 years after the Civil War began and 94 years after it ended. However, it was just five years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional and two years after Congress created the Civil Rights Commission.
‘Telling the truth about our past’
Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, praised the bipartisan action, particularly voicing appreciation for the role of Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, in initiating the process to remove the plaque.
“Jesus said truth has the power to set us free,” Freeman said. “The Civil War was a painful time in our country’s history, and we still grapple with the legacy of slavery. … Telling the truth about our past is an important step in our healing the racial divides in our country.”
Gov. Greg Abbott chairs the State Preservation Board, which also includes Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a ruling late last year saying the board had authority to remove the plaque, and it would not require a vote of the full Texas Legislature.
The “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque states: “Because we desire to perpetuate, in love and honor the heroic deeds of those who enlisted in the Confederate Army and upheld its flag through four years of war, we, the children of the South, have united in an organization called ‘Children of the Confederacy’ in which our strength, enthusiasm, and love of justice can exert its influence. We, therefore, pledge ourselves to preserve pure ideals; to honor our veterans; to study and teach the truths of history (one of the most important of which is that the War Between the States was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery); and to always act in a manner that will reflect honor upon our noble and patriotic ancestors.”
However, the Texas Declaration of Secession says, “We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various states, and of the Confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.”
Following protests by the NAACP, two plaques honoring the Confederacy were removed from the Texas Supreme Court building in 2000. About a dozen Confederate markers, monuments and memorials, most of them erected early in the 20th century, remain on the Texas Capitol grounds.