Houston Matters

What Messages Do Confederate Icons Convey?

Harvard history professor Annette Gordon-Reed previews a lecture she’s giving in Houston on the impact of Confederate symbols on display in the public square.

Confederate Plaque in the Texas Capitol
A plaque honoring the Confederate States of America in the Texas Capitol was removed in January 2019.

Members of the Texas State Preservation Board met today to decide where to put a plaque honoring the Confederacy after it had been removed from the Texas Capitol earlier this month.

The plaque was installed in 1959 and came under scrutiny in 2017 when Dallas state Rep. Eric Johnson called for its removal.

Such Confederate icons and symbols on public display continue to draw controversy around the country. So, what are the messages they convey to the public?

Spirit of the Confederacy Statue
“The Spirit of the Confederacy” statue in Sam Houston Park downtown, erected in 1908.

Hemingses of MonticelloThat question is what Annette Gordon-Reed is going to address during her upcoming lecture at the University of Houston Law Center on Thursday, Feb. 14. Gordon-Reed is a history professor at Harvard Law School. She’s the author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.

In the audio above, Gordon-Reed tells Houston Matters producer Maggie Martin about the messages — both explicit and hidden — that Confederate icons convey to the public.

Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard Law School
Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor at Harvard Law School.

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