University of Texas to Move Statue of Jefferson Davis to an Educational Exhibit

On the Main Mall of the University of Texas at Austin are seven statues. Along with George Washington, there are statues of:

  • Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America
  • James Stephen Hogg, 20th Governor of Texas whose father was a Confederate general
  • Albert Sidney Johnston, General in the Texas, United States, and Confederate Armies
  • Robert E. Lee, General in the Confederate Army
  • John H. Reagan, Postmaster General of the Confederacy
  • Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States who is known to have held racist views

In addition to the statues is an inscription near the Littlefield Fountain. The inscription reads:

“To the men and women of the Confederacy who fought with valor and suffered with fortitude that states’ rights be maintained and who, not dismayed by defeat nor discouraged by misrule, builded [sic] from the ruins of a devastating war a greater south. And to the men and women of the nation who gave of their possessions and of their lives that free government be made secure to the peoples of the earth this memorial is dedicated.”

Task Force on Historical Representation of Statuary at UT Austin - Report copyIn June, Gregory L. Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin formed The Task Force on Historical Representation of Statuary at the University of Texas at Austin. The task force recently issued a report that included recommendation of what should be done about statues.

The task force offered five options for the president to consider:

  • Leave all statues in place and add explanatory plaques that would enhance the educational value of the statues and provide historical context.
  • Relocate the statue of Jefferson Davis and the inscription near the Littlefield Fountain to an exhibit elsewhere on campus.
  • Relocate the statues of Davis, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and John Reagan and the inscription near the Littlefield Fountain to an exhibit elsewhere on campus.
  • Relocate the statues of Davis, Lee, Johnston and Woodrow Wilson and the inscription near the Littlefield Fountain to an exhibit elsewhere on campus.
  • Relocate six statues — Davis, Lee, Reagan, Johnston, Wilson and James Hogg — and the inscription near the Littlefield Fountain to an exhibit elsewhere on campus.

On August 13, President Fenves decided to remove the Jefferson Davis statue to an educational exhibit at the Briscoe Center on campus. The Davis statue has been vandalized several times over the past year. The Woodrow Wilson statue will be moved elsewhere on campus to “maintain symmetry.” The other statues will remain where they are.

In a statement to the university community, President Fenves said that “while every historical figure leaves a mixed legacy, I believe Jefferson Davis is in a separate category, and that it is not in the university’s best interest to continue commemorating him on our Main Mall. Davis had few ties to Texas; he played a unique role in the history of the American South that is best explained and understood through an educational exhibit.”

President Fenves added that the university “will consider placing a plaque on the Main Mall to provide historical context for the remaining statues and for an inscription west of the Littlefield Fountain that pays tribute to the Confederacy and Southern patriotism.”

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