To the Editor:
The chasm, unfortunately, is not closed, as much as we would like it to be. We’re referring to the sentence on the plaque on the Civil War statue in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs. That sentence — “The chasm is closed” — rings hollow today. The rest of the plaque reads, “In memory of the restored union, this tablet is dedicated by Union veterans of the Civil War and patriotic citizens of Martha’s Vineyard in honor of the Confederate soldiers.” A monument to the bravery of the Union Army is one thing; a tribute to honor a cause that promoted and defended slavery is quite another.
We stand in agreement with the Martha’s Vineyard chapter of the NAACP that these plaques should be removed and donated as historical items to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
We stand in support of what chapter president Erik Blake told the MV Times, “I don’t think the govern
ment of Oak Bluffs should be publicly honoring the Confederates … [The plaques are] a piece of history, but should not be displayed in honor; [they] belong in the museum.” The NAACP is not asking for removal of the statue. The issue at hand is the wording of the message on the monument erected by former Confederate soldier and Vineyard newspaper publisher Charles Strahan in 1891.
We are the Martha’s Vineyard Social Justice Leadership Foundation. Our mission is to empower Island groups and individuals to transform racial and social injustices through grantmaking, education, and advocacy. Our vision statement is simple: A fair and just Island for all. Our organization has been responsible for holding valuable symposiums on immigrant rights in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, and in arranging a town hall meeting at the Performing Arts Center featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren. We can be found online at social justicemv.org.
“Monuments to the ‘lost cause’ will prove monuments of folly … in the memories of a wicked rebellion which they must necessarily perpetuate … It is a needless record of stupidity and wrong.” –Frederick Douglas, 1870
Laurie Perry, president
Martha’s Vineyard Social Justice Leadership Foundation