Tennessee: Group Challenges Naming of Memphis Parks

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Several plaintiffs have filed suit against the renaming of Confederate-themed city parks in Memphis, asserting only the mayor can change park names.

According to The Commercial Appeal, nine individuals and a group calling itself Citizens to Save Our Parks filed the petition Wednesday against the City of Memphis and the Memphis City Council.

A statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest stands in the middle of the park formerly named for him on Union between Manassas and Dunlap. (Dave Darnell/The Commercial Appeal)

A statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest stands in the middle of the park formerly named for him on Union between Manassas and Dunlap. (Dave Darnell/The Commercial Appeal)

On Feb. 5, the council approved a resolution renaming Forrest Park, Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park.

They were given generic names, awaiting a committee recommendation. That panel has recommended Civil War Park, Promenade Park and Harbor Park. The council has not acted on the recommendation.

The lawsuit asks Chancery Court to void the renaming of the parks.

The filing states the city council dissolved the Memphis Parks Commission in 2002, creating the Division of Park Services, which is answerable to the mayor. It quoted a 2005 newspaper article in which council attorney Allan Wade said the mayor’s administration and not the council has authority to name or rename parks.

The plaintiffs also ask in their lawsuit for a declaratory judgment stating the city’s removal on Jan. 8 of a marker designating Forrest Park to be illegal and invalid. The lawsuit said the marker was a joint project between the city’s Park Services Division, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Shelby County Historical Commission. Funds were raised by the sons group and the granite marker was installed last May.

The lawsuit said it was “illegally and surreptitiously removed” by the city.

The park formerly known as Forrest Park contains the grave of Confederate cavalry officer Nathan Bedford Forrest and an equestrian statue of Forrest is displayed there.

The individuals named as plaintiffs are Pam Hayes, Debbie Lewis, Harry Adams, Neal Bumpas, Jim Brown, John Ellis, Mike Daugherty, Jack Smith and Adam Schmuck, who are also members of the parks group.

City Attorney Herman Morris said Wednesday he had not yet seen the lawsuit, but said the city was prepared to respond when served with it.

“If and when we are, we will vigorously defend the City of Memphis and its interest,” Morris said.

–Associated Press


Florida: Marine Corps League Won’t Honor Confederate Graves per City Request

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Marine Corps League Detachment No. 1381 of Jacksonville will not place rebel flags at the city cemetery this Memorial Day weekend per the city’s request.

Jacksonville Public Works Director Will Cole said the league wanted to put rebel flags on Confederate soldiers’ graves at the city cemetery on Kickapoo Street.

The city determined that because it is public property and the league did not have city council approval, the proper decision would be to honor the soldiers in another way, possibly by placing wreaths, flowers or something else there, Cole said.

“That’s their program, and the city administration supports any activities to honor veterans or soldiers. I’m a veteran myself,” he said.

Still, “Our feeling was with a negative perception of the Confederate Flag, it was more proper to honor them in some other way.”

Chuck Bones, commandant with the Marine Corps League Detachment No. 1381, said the league respects the city and does not want to push the issue.

However, it won’t “disrespect any veteran from any war by only placing select flags and ignoring others,” he wrote in a letter posted on the league Facebook page.

Therefore, he said the league won’t put any flags at the city cemetery but does plan Saturday to place flags at the Corine Cemetery outside of town.

He said the league “is not trying to stir up anything” and does not seek out publicity. He said its goal was to honor Confederate soldiers and veterans.

In the future, though, he said he would like Jacksonville residents to be able to weigh in on the issue.

Cole said he did suggest that if the league wanted to pursue the initiative next year, it should come before the Jacksonville City Council and discuss it.

“If the city council approves it or supports it, that’s a different issue,” he said.

He added, “We support veterans. We’d encourage anybody that honors the veterans and soldiers. We support them. We encourage that. It’s just that in this particular case the symbol used has a negative connotation.”



South Carolina: Civil War Black Troops Fought Three-Pronged War

The Civil War was fought between two sides, but for the black freedmen and escaped slaves who enlisted as U.S. Colored Troops, the war had three fronts.

Civil War scholar and re-enactor Asa Gordon talks about Harriet Tubman's role as the creator and leader of the 1863 Combahee River Raid Friday afternoon during a lecture on the legacy of U.S. black troops who served in the Civil War at Cherry Hill School on Hilton Head Island. / Sarah Welliver Photo

Civil War scholar and re-enactor Asa Gordon talks about Harriet Tubman’s role as the creator and leader of the 1863 Combahee River Raid Friday afternoon during a lecture on the legacy of U.S. black troops who served in the Civil War at Cherry Hill School on Hilton Head Island.
/ Sarah Welliver Photo

The first two battles — for liberty from slavery in the South and for equal rights within the Union Army — were won years ago.

The third — for education — is still being waged. It’s a campaign in which Asa Gordon, Secretary General of the Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Colored Troops, is a soldier.

Gordon spoke Friday at the Cherry Hill School, an original building in what was once the town of Mitchelville. Union Gen. Ormsby Mitchel set land aside for the settlement after driving Confederate forces off the island in 1861. The community, which eventually grew to more than 1,500 residents, formed in 1862, a year before the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Mitchelville Preservation Project and the Hilton Head Island Land Trust sponsored Gordon’s talk.

Gordon said the continuing fight for education began as an individual struggle among the troops to become literate. Education was believed at the time to offer freedom and a path to prosperity and it was fiercely sought after by the soldiers, Gordon said.

That fight has since morphed into a battle for a public re-education about the role of the black troops in the war effort, he said.

The soldiers’ role and character has been distorted by history books and the 1989 film “Glory,” Gordon told a standing-room-only audience. The troops, some of whom served on Hilton Head and played a role in protecting the island, were often depicted as lazy and uninterested in educating themselves. They were sometimes shown as poor soldiers.

“Present-day prejudices were projected on another time,” Gordon told the audience. “Part of the education is to understand how we have been miseducated.”

Following the talk, Gordon led a walk along Beach City Road to the site of Fort Howell, where a remembrance was held for the black troops who built the fort.

–Hilton Head Island Packet


Virginia: VMI to Serve as Backdrop for Civil War Film

LEXINGTON, Va. — One of Virginia Military Institute’s seminal moments in history will soon get the big screen treatment.

An independent film titled “Field of Lost Shoes” will begin principal photography on the VMI campus early next week. The film will be based on the famous Civil War Battle of New Market in which 10 VMI cadets died in a battle against Union forces. Six of those 10 cadets are buried on the VMI campus.

David Kennedy, a Navy veteran who graduated from the University of Virginia, wrote the script for the movie and said the idea for the film came from his fellow producer and collaborator Tom Farrell. After developing the story with Farrell, Kennedy spent the next two years searching through archives and letters written during the time period while developing the script.

Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, said he was glad the filmmakers had chosen to film in Virginia rather than another state.

“We’re obviously very excited that they’re filming in Virginia and that they’re bringing production jobs to the commonwealth,” Edmunds said.

The film will be directed by Sean McNamara, who has previously worked as an executive producer and director on Disney television shows like “Even Stevens” and “That’s So Raven” as well as directed the films “Raise Your Voice” and “Soul Surfer,” according to his IMBD.com page.

Kennedy, whose nephew attended VMI, said one of the most noteworthy aspects of the project was the camaraderie shared by the cadets who attend the school.

“They have very strong bonds based on what they have done in their lives together,” Kennedy said.

To help the authenticity of the film, Kennedy said cast members will take tours of the institute and receive training from cadets. The crew spent the past few days scouting locations in Virginia like the state Capitol and governor’s mansion, as well as the VMI campus.

Kennedy said reaction from VMI and the community has been positive.

“There is no shortage of emotion when it comes to this event and this idea,” Kennedy said. “It’s one of those stories that almost tells itself.”



Virginia: Sons of Confederate Veterans Clean Cemetery

ROANOKE, Va. — Memorial Day weekend was all about time off, barbecues and family gatherings, but it was also about honoring those that have served this country in the military, past and present. The 28th Virginia Infantry Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans decided that the Memorial Day weekend was the perfect time for a cleanup at the city-owned cemetery on Tazewell Avenue, behind the Roanoke Rescue Mission.

The city cemetery features the graves of more than 50 Confederate veterans and other Roanokers, including Maria A. Hambrick, the granddaughter of patriot and former Virginia governor Patrick Henry. The work crew last Saturday cleaned headstones and put some back in to place after they had fallen or even been vandalized.  That meant cementing or gluing the headstones back in to place in some cases.

Cleanup day at the Tazewell Avenue cemetery.

Cleanup day at the Tazewell Avenue cemetery.

The Mary Custis Lee Chapter of the Order of the Confederate Rose and the Hupp-Deyerle-McCausland Chapter of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars took part at the cleanup, as did the Belmont Neighborhood Association, the Southeast Action Forum, Old Southwest Inc and the adjacent Roanoke Rescue Mission. “It’s been neglected for so long,” said one man as he scrubbed decades of moss and mold off one headstone.

On a bright, sunny weekend day dozens of people stooped to scrub headstones or place others back in to place. Some of those headstones tumbled over when city maintenance crews cut the grass between them with equipment that was too big for the task in some cases.

Charles Poland, who handles public relations chores for the 28th Infantry Camp, said a cleanup at Tazewell Cemetery has been long overdue. Neglect has long been a problem there – Poland said more than 100 years ago a reader complained to the local daily newspaper in a letter about that very issue.

“We’re resetting a lot of stones – gluing them back together again,” noted Poland. Hambrick’s grave had already been repaired. Records from the Roanoke Historical Society and Roanoke City library’s Virginia Room allowed the Sons of Confederate Veterans allowed the chapter to identify which graves belong to rebels that fought for the south during the Civil War; chapter members are typically descendants of those that fought in the War Between the States.

Mark Craig, commander of the 28th Infantry Camp, noted that the Tazewell Avenue Cemetery “has been in horrible shape for well over a hundred years.” The camp started two years ago cleaning Confederate soldier graves, then expanded that effort when it became apparent that other headstones needed repair as well. 80 man-hours of work were needed to repair Maria Hambrick’s tombstone alone, including a ton of dirt trucked in and reseeding of the plot.

The 28th Infantry Camp got the Belmont Neighborhood Association involved and the project took off. The Belmont group even got the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Department to bring inmate trustees over when some tree limbs needed to be cut down.

“This has been an ongoing thing for two years,” noted Craig.“If you could have seen what it looked like two years ago compared to now, there’s no comparison.”  Any expenses for the cleanup come out of the Infantry Camp’s pockets, although the Rescue Mission provided lunch this year and $100 for supplies. Expect the 28th Infantry Camp to be back, maybe next Memorial Day weekend: ‘there’s still a long ways to go,” said Poland. “There’s a lot of history in this cemetery.”

–Roanoke Star


Georgia: Macon Civil War Marker Salutes Blacks

A slave woman brought Macon worldwide notoriety by disguising herself as a white man in 1848 to escape serving her half-sister.

A freed black man became a successful east Macon businessman before the Civil War, although the law forced him to rely on a white partner to make his legal transactions.

The first black Georgian elected to the U.S. Congress came from Macon.

These are just a few of the stories detailed in a new historical marker, titled “Civil War Era Maconites of African Ancestry,” that was dedicated Wednesday morning at 830 Mulberry St.

“Not many of the cities in Georgia who are doing historical markers are remembering the contributions African-Americans made to their community,” said Muriel Jackson, archivist at the Washington Memorial Library. “We know the slave community built this community brick by brick.”

Muriel Jackson of the Washington Memorial Library gives a brief history of some of Macon’s well-known African-Americans and the Robert E. Lee building on Mulberry Street on Wednesday morning. The ceremony introduced an interpretive marker entitled Civil War Era Maconites of African Ancestry. The marker is one of many placed in the state as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com

Muriel Jackson of the Washington Memorial Library gives a brief history of some of Macon’s well-known African-Americans and the Robert E. Lee building on Mulberry Street on Wednesday morning. The ceremony introduced an interpretive marker entitled Civil War Era Maconites of African Ancestry. The marker is one of many placed in the state as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.
WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com

The placard stands in front of the gray Robert E. Lee insurance building, which is two doors down from the historic Cannonball House.

After it’s renovation, it housed WIBB, Georgia’s first black radio station and the studio where James Brown recorded his hit “Please, Please, Please,” Jackson said.

The house was built in 1836 for Robert and Eliza Smith Collins.

The couple owned Eliza Smith Collins’ half-sister, Ellen Smith Craft, the daughter of plantation master Maj. James Smith of Clinton and one of his mixed-race slaves.

James Smith’s wife grew weary of the fair-skinned Ellen being mistaken for one of her children and being a constant reminder of her husband’s infidelity.

She gave Ellen to her daughter as a wedding present.

Ellen and her slave husband, William Craft, concocted a successful plan for her to pose as a white man and they traveled by train to the North with him as her servant.

The couple eventually fled to England, where they became famous fugitive slaves and published “Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom” in 1860.

The marker is one of at least a dozen commissioned by the Macon Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee.

It also notes the story of Solomon Humphries, who rescued his master’s daughter and grandchildren from Indian uprisings in Alabama and received his freedom in return.

The cotton trader was known as far north as Baltimore, where he bought supplies for his successful store, Jackson explained at the dedication.

The new sign at the sidewalk lists former slave and master tailor Rep. Jefferson Franklin Long as the first person of color to speak on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Those marking the 150th anniversary of the war felt very strongly about including the untold stories of the struggles of slaves and free persons of color before, during and after the War Between the States.

“There are also many stories yet to be uncovered,” Jackson said. “This marker will stand as a monument to all those who have passed away without their story being told.”

Sesquicentennial committee member Conie Mac Darnell said Macon is blessed with many Civil War era biographies and journals from its black citizens.

The local historian cited a Kennesaw State University study exploring why blacks are not more interested in Civil War history.

Those surveyed in focus groups indicated blacks felt their stories were left out.

“If you tell our story, we will come,” Darnell said was their conclusion. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to do here.”

Next month, the committee will unveil its 10th marker, “Beating Plowshares into Swords,” which will highlight the Old Western Depot, the temporary site of the Confederate armory.

The committee provided downtown Macon museums and the Convention & Visitors Bureau with free maps spotlighting more than 120 Macon places of distinction during the Civil War.

Committee Chairman Bill Elliott said, “When we get our markers in the ground, Macon will have the best coverage of what happened in our city during the Civil War than any other city in Georgia, including Atlanta.”

–Macon Telegraph