Democrats on the Indianapolis City-County Council are calling for the relocation of a Confederate monument in a city park in wake of the racial violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The 35-foot granite marker sits in Garfield Park on the city’s Southside. It was built in 1912 to honor 1,616 Confederate soldiers and some slaves who died from disease and starvation at a prisoner of war camp in the city.
Thursday night City-County Council Majority Leader Monroe Gray released a statement calling for the monument to be relocated. Crown Hill Cemetery, he said, would be “a more fitting location for this headstone” since the remains of the prisoners were moved to cemetery years ago.
Following Gray’s statement, the director of the Indianapolis Parks and Recreation Department announced she would begin exploring “all available options to remove the monument” and see if it could be placed in a historical context if it remains in public display.
Ted Frantz, a University of Indianapolis history associate professor, says the Garfield Park monument is unlike other Confederate monuments that have sparked outrage
The monument lists the names of the men who died, Frantz, says but does not provide a context to what they were fighting for.
Other monuments, like those of General Robert E. Lee tend to evoke heroism.
“It’s capturing them almost in a moment when they still had a chance,” he says. “If you are remembering Confederate prisoners of war dying far from home that is actually what the memorial, I think, is more intended to do which is quite different.”
Frantz hopes local leaders have a discussion about the memorial and its meaning before decisions are made on its removal.
“If we are going to learn and get better, we need to actually talk about them not just bury them as parts of our past that we prefer to forget,” Frantz says.
The monument’s inscription reads: “Erected by the United States to mark the burial place of 1,616 Confederate soldiers and sailors who died here while prisoners of war and whose graves cannot now be identified.”
Indianapolis has another monument memorializing soldiers from the Civil War: the 284-foot-tall Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Downtown honors Indiana’s Union soldiers.
The City of Baltimore removed several Confederate statues earlier this week. Other cities are considering taking the same action. Four protesters were taken into custody in North Carolina days after pulling down a statute of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Durham.