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Marker protested Petition drive seeks removal of Jefferson Davis monument

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Posted: Sunday, January 17, 2016 10:22 pm

Since its inception a month ago, an online petition to remove a historical marker honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis from Washington Park in Brownsville has amassed almost 5,000 signatures.

The petition’s author, Brownsville resident Antonio Castillo, said his wife and children are of African American ancestry and that from the family’s perspective the monument in a public park is unwelcoming to descendents of slaves.

The petition had garnered national attention from The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, and is facing opposition from locals including Craig Stone.

Stone is the education and programs coordinator for the Brownsville Historical Association and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Mechanized Cavalry.

Stone has since launched his own online petition to keep the historical marker in WashingtonPark.

Lecturer James Mills from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley history department said the marker commemorates military history that precedes the Civil War and is part of Brownsville’s history.

Mills described the petition to have the monument removed as “political correctness gone wild.”

“We have a lot of dark history in the past,” he said. “We can reinterpret it today but it doesn’t change the past. I think it is important that it stay there in Washington park.” 

According to Stone, the monument was bought and paid for by the Magruder-Ford Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and erected in 1926 on Palm Boulevard in honor of their Brownsville ancestors.

“These women wanted to assure that American history was taught in and out of the public schools and encouraged the erecting of monuments throughout the South for the benefit of younger generations,” Stone said in a letter to city officials.

Mills explained that the Confederacy played an important role in Texas and American history. Jefferson Davis served as a Congressional representative and senator from Mississippi before he became president of the Confederate States of America.

On Sunday, the Brownsville Historical Association will partner with the Sons of Confederate Veterans to celebrate Confederate Heroes day at WashingtonPark.

Castillo said he sees the celebration as a promotion of hate and an insult to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is the national holiday to celebrate King’s birthday and his contributions to the civil rights movement.

Castillo said in honor of MLK Day he and others will gather to register new voters.

“The Brownsville Historical Association has partnered up with a Confederate group and they will be having Confederate heroes day instead of trying to unify this country,” Castillo said.

Mills contended that the monument is of historical significance and only became a hot topic when other Confederate monuments were removed across the South.

“Before any of this came up, the majority of Brownsville didn’t know it was there, so I say leave it where it is,” Mills said.

cgarza@brownsvilleherald.com

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