Erasing the Civil War


By Caryn Rousseau, Associated Press


(Washington Times, 12/27/04)



Confederacy references gone


Little Rock, Ark.


From renaming Confederate Boulevard in Arkansas, to shrinking “Heart of Dixie” on Alabama's license plate, the South is slowly erasing its Civil War past.


“Business people and tourists don't know what to think about slavery, elitism, the Civil War,” says Ted Ownby of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.


“So one way is to give them an easy out. We'll change the name of this building, this street, change this display.”


In the past few years, more and more references to the Confederacy seem to be vanishing in Dixie.


Last year, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee dropped “Confederate” from Confederate Memorial Hall. The University of Mississippi dropped “Colonel Rebel” as its on-field mascot. Georgia downsized, and then eventually removed, a Confederate symbol from its state flag. And South Carolina's NAACP has been pushing for years to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.


In Little Rock, Ark., the switch from Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard was made in November, just before the opening of Bill Clinton's presidential library.


John Shelton Reed, a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina's Center for the Study of the American South, said that the trend is clear and that business interests coupled with concern from the black community are the catalysts.


“Businesses named Dixie this and Dixie that, there are fewer of them than there used to be,” he said. "If you're a business person, why do you want a name that's going to raise anybody's hackles?”


Jim Dailey; the mayor of Little Rock, said the Confederate Boulevard sign was changed after city officials noted that it was often the first thing visitors saw after arriving at the Little Rock airport.


Ron Casteel, chief of staff for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, called the changes a “disgusting trend.”


“We honor everyone else's traditions and heritage. Why should we discriminate against Confederate heritage?” Mr. Casteel said.