The Martha’s Vineyard chapter of the NAACP will appear at the next Oak Bluffs selectmen’s meeting to request the removal of two plaques that pay tribute to Confederate soldiers at the Soldiers’ Memorial Fountain in Ocean Park.
Chapter president Erik Blake told The Times the chapter had unanimously voted Saturday to attend the selectmen’s March 26 meeting to ask the town to remove the plaques and donate them to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
The first plaque on the statue reads, “‘The chasm is closed.’ In memory of the restored Union this tablet is dedicated by the Union veterans of the Civil War and patriotic citizens of Martha’s Vineyard in honor of the Confederate soldiers.”
The second plaque, installed at the foot of the monument, details the statue’s history.
“I don’t think the government of Oak Bluffs should be publicly honoring the Confederates,” Blake told The Times. “[The plaques are] a piece of history, but should not displayed in honor. It belongs in the museum.”
The chapter is not advocating for the removal of the statue, which depicts a Union soldier. Charles Strahan, a publisher of the Martha’s Vineyard Herald and a Confederate veteran, erected the statue in 1891 as “a gesture of conciliation,” according to the plaque. The statue was once painted gray, and incorrectly referred to as the only Civil War memorial in the North that depicts a Confederate soldier. In 2001, the statue was rededicated, and the gray paint was removed to avoid confusion.
Blake said the request to remove the plaques has been in the works for a while, at the urging of Clennon King, a Boston-based filmmaker and seasonal visitor, as well as other summer residents.
In a 2017 Letter to the Editor, as several states across the country began removing Confederate monuments, King called the Oak Bluffs monument the “offensive elephant in the room.”
After Saturday’s meeting, King wrote a press release detailing the events at the meeting, but Blake said King is not a member of the chapter and the release was “not his to give.”
King, however, disagreed, saying he was invited to speak at the meeting, and as a private citizen did not need authorization to write a release.
King called the plaques “egregious” because his tax dollars and the tax dollars of all summer visitors to the Island help preserve the monument.
“It’s a mockery, it’s a contradiction,” King said. “They are paying tribute to a Confederate soldier who took a bullet to preserve slavery … It’s got to go.”
Yeah because a statement like the chasm is closed is so offensive. How overly simplistic can Mr King or Blake be.
So something erected in 1891 as a gesture of conciliation is now a problem. Something that has been there all this time is suddenly upsetting a VERY small handful of SUMMER residents. If that is all you have to worry about in life you need a hobby. Sad a small group of people should dictate what others should say and do. All the taxpayers should be given the vote on this. Don’t give in… tell them to stay home if they find it a problem.
This monument was done as a celebration of peace. The reuniting of a nation torn apart by war. To say it’s somehow racist is ignorant of its intended purpose.
This type of behavior today is doing nothing but encouraging more divisiveness andtax dollars being wasted.
So much energy and money has been put into the removal of statues, monuments and memorials. Couldn’t that energy and money be put to better use? Something that would actually have an impact on the less fortunates lives?? Removing these things is doing absolutely nothing to actually make a difference in anyone’s lives.
Applying today’s standards to monuments erected years ago , that had no malicious intent is just a way to create unnecessary division. Do we remove George Washington from our currency next?
No. But I don’t see many statues honoring King George III of England around, do you?
Folks might consider reviewing the history on the statue…
(In case the link doesn’t work, enter “charlie’s statue oak bluffs” into a google search box.)
I would be in favor of removing and not replacing the offending plaque. However, I would personally object to the removal of the monument itself. But, that’s just my opinion.
Oh those troublesome statues. They will be gone in 12 years due to the secular apocalypse of climate change so dont worry.
andrew– what’s with the 12 year thing ? — “secular apocalypse ?”
I’m starting to worry about you– I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to put extra sauce on your rigatoni. In the mean time, cut back on the kool aid
As a decedent of folks who fought for the Union and against the enslavement of Africans, I am for the removal of plaques honoring confederate soldiers. Put them in a museum. The NAACP represents people who are descendants of slaves so I have no problem deferring to them on the appropriateness of plaques honoring the confederacy.
The monument is a staple in the town. I understand that some people may find it offensive but it is a part of history and not all history needs to be locked away in a museum. The park would look bare without it there and I don’t understand why summer visitors even get a say in how or what we do on this island. Us Islanders live here year round and deal with the issues 365 days a year. Stop messing with our island way of things.
The vote was about two plaques, not the monument itself.
I saw this coming a Longggg time ago especially during the previous administration when all this craziness started!
Yep George the vote was about two plaques, Now, and the monument will be next.
Pencil that prediction on your calendar.
The monument won’t be next. It’s a Union soldier – i.e., one of our guys, the ones who went to war to defend the United States and put an end to one of its’ most shameful legacies.
this monument was put up by Union soldiers, as a way to heal the scars– It is ridiculous to take the plaques out. They tell the story. Without them, it is just another statue.
The confederate soldiers were brave people doing what they thought was right. The suffered and died , just like the union soldiers.
If we want to start burying history, let’s take down the Vietnam memorials. Those soldiers were an invading force that occasionally slaughtered innocent civilians. And for what ?
Just like confederate soldiers, they were brave and fighting for what they believed in. We should honor them all.
Agree. The monument **and the plaques** honor the men, not the cause. Most people can understand the difference. As Dondon points out, if it’s the causes we are talking about, then let’s do away with all Vietnam War monuments. The self-righteousness of those who come as visitors and want to impose their narrow moral judgments is a pain. Feels like a lot of agitation being done. Mr. King should go elsewhere if he can’t accept being *a guest* in OB. To me it looks like the NAACP is being used to push a trivial but divisive agenda item where there are many more important things to do. It also looks like Mr. King is engaging in personal PR for himself, perhaps to further his own career and get into People magazine or some such.
Martha’s Vineyard has a unique culture and history.
The plaques on the Oak Bluffs represent this.
Remove them, and erase our history, at your own peril.
No further commentary necessary.
You are warned.
The history of the statue and the the plaques: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouLqf2yeTaU [This is a 40 min. video of a talk I gave at the MV Museum on 8/31/2017. It is posted here as background and context, not as an endorsement — by me or the Museum — of any particular position in the current discussion.]
Apparently people living here don’t know how the civil war worked.. imagine you were owned by a rich southerner. You worked for free for him, got beat when he felt like it, your wife and daughters raped, your sons/daughters sold like cattle to other rich Southerners, and you never saw them again. So the United States government says no you can’t OWN PEOPLE anymore so your owner and the wealthy southerners decide nah we are going to have a civil war over this. I like owning people and having free labor (so yeah I guess you could say they fought for what they believed in) and the South were treasoners against the US government. The Union won ending slavery and now ex-union soldiers put up a monument saying they appreciate the confederates and how hard they fought? And a person who lives here, or descended from the slaves, possibly visits here and sees this plaque saying hey you owned people, beat them, raped them, destroyed their families, but you fought hard so it’s all good? If you were descended from slaves this would be acceptable to you? Why b/c it was placed here years ago? Remove the plaque. Confederates don’t deserve any honor for what they did.
OMG Islandwoke25, if you feel this way, then why don’t you go on down to DC and start taking down statues and monuments….when will the ridiculousness stop! It’s history, get over it, you were never a slave and neither was I. Yes slavery was an atrocity, so is war.
Islandwoke- I missed the part where the plaque said “you owned people, beat them, raped them, destroyed their families, but you fought hard so it’s all good”.
You mention the “wealthy southerners”. How many people do you think were wealthy at the time ?
Do you think they or their children actually went to the war ? Do you think the average confederate soldier owned slaves ?
Perhaps you don’t know how wars work. The rich and powerful have an economic issue ( in this case free labor) so they vilify some “other” group of people and get the undereducated to believe they will lose their way of life if the “others” impose their beliefs on “us”. Remember , even today, it is referred to as “the war of northern aggression”. And can you blame them ? The union soldiers burned , pillaged and raped entire cities. It was normal people on both sides who died.
There is no shame in being gracious in victory.
Going to war is a choice, slavery was not.. so the ancestors of slaves shouldn’t feel badly that their captors are being honored? Should we then honor the Vietcong on the Vietnam Memorials for fighting a good fight?? How would those brave men and women feel about that about or those that lost loved ones during Vietnam? It’s the same thing! Honoring people who have no right to be honored for OWNING people and not wanting to stop doing it so they could benefit.. It is a slap in the face of people of color to honor Confederates, and I am sorry that you can’t see that. It is a sad part of this nation’s history.
Islandwoke. Slavery was a choice for the people doing the enslavement. Actually, there is a profile portrait of Ho-Chi-Minh on the L.N.G tank as you approach Boston. The people of Vietnam endured years of atrocities at the hand of the world’s most powerful military, and beat them. They should be honored.
The United States should apologize and pay restitution for the still ongoing suffering cause by it’s actions then and the residual effects of poisons they indiscriminately sprayed on large swaths of the country. Casualties from land mines left by the U.S still kill and maim people to this day.
I am ,by the way, am a Vietnam era veteran. No, I never went to Vietnam, but I didn’t have a corrupt doctor make up a bogus story about shin splints or some nonsense to keep me out of the military either.
And I lost some good friends to that fiasco. They died not because THEY believed they were doing something great, but because of lies and deception at the highest levels of our government.
Just FYI, there is no profile of Ho Chi Minh on the LNG tank, though some people thought they saw one when it was originally painted. The artist denied this. When the image was repainted, the blue slash was reduced so that no confusion would occur.
And, I am a Viet Vet
Slavery has existed throughout history and the USA has done more to end it than any other country. We fought a war to end slavery wherein 600,000 lives were lost. No other country fought a war to end it. Black on black slavery existed in Africa for thousands of years. Blacks in the US owned slaves, Arabs in Africa owned slaves. White guilt is not useful anymore. Indeed We in the USA instituted more programs to lift up African Americans, many of which unfortunately did not work. LBJ Great Society was motivated by guilt and embedded entitlement even more, but it was an attempt to repair a wrong.
Andrew– your comment that USA has done more to end slavery than any other country is a flat out lie.
Given the importance of Oak Bluffs for the African-American community as an oasis from bigotry, I could see how being greeted by the statue as you start your holiday could be offensive. The NAACP is only asking for the plaques to be removed. Does not seem too much to ask.
t2– you say that you can see how someone may be offended to see a statue of a union soldier in Oak Bluffs.
How many tourist do you think read the plaques ? So what is “offensive” ? a gesture by the victors of the civil war, the war that coast more American lives than any other , from the victors to the defeated ? That is “offensive” ? i watch some football games– one team wins, the other loses– i see them shake hands and hug– would you rather they should spit at each other ? What is wrong with respect. ?
To say that every American that died wearing a confederate uniform was somehow a racist is truly offensive.
I am not offended because I have no reason to be. But apparently responsible members of our community are offended. They voiced their opinion and made a request. If it were me, I would honor the request out of respect for the continuing issue of social injustice based on race, religion, sexual orientation with an eye toward closing the chasm just a little more. I don’t think it necessarily neds to be extrapolated beyond that. For example, if they asked for the removal of the Union soldier statue or wanted plaques condeming all Confederate solidiers, I would would feel differently.
We live in the greatest country on earth. Doubt it? Then why did so many people of wealth threaten to leave if Trump was elected…and then didn’t leave?! If there is a better country for people with means to live, they owe it to themselves and their families to move there. They didn’t though, did they? If you’re looking to be outraged by something, you’ll find it! The Vineyard is one of the most welcoming spots you’ll find on Earth, no matter your gender, race, sexual preference, height, weight, political affiliation (sort of..) or any other differentiator you can find. Why are people looking for things that offend them? If THIS is the only thing the NAACP can find to complain about, then racism is over! Congratulations…until the next outrage.
When the Constitution was written, we didn’t have automatic reloading weaponry, we didn’t have horseless carriages, we didn’t have telecommunication. But we had slavery. To be fair, not every citizen had the personal wealth to own another human but saying the Civil war wasn’t about slavery because most rebel soldiers didn’t own slaves is like saying the Cold War wasn’t about rival political and economic systems because most Americans didn’t hold elective office or own stocks.
Our society wasn’t locked into place in 1891 when that statue with its plaques was put up. Former slaves were still second class citizens, they could not vote until the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 and then they were forced to pass procedural nonsense before voting like reciting the full Constitution; never mind the chance of being beating or murdered for simply being seen where they weren’t wanted.
Do we owe descendants of slaves monetary reparations? Not saying that. But we still owe them time to become citizens with dignity, anything less says we still consider them second class citizens. Do people of color have the right to be offended by this kind of recognition of the Confederacy, even 154 years after Appomattox? If you respond that they should “Suck it up,” you’re saying something about yourself and it isn’t pretty.
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