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The history of Allendale's controversial Civil War statue

Allendale Civil War Statue photo

Tuesday evening, the Allendale Township Board of Trustees will meet discussing the future of a controversial Civil War statue.

Saturday, protesters gathered in the Allendale Community Park demanding its removal.

What do we know about the statue?

“The statue, they were put up throughout the south, and some in the north, are put up as the result of the beginnings of Jim Crow and the end of reconstruction, this whole rewriting of Civil War history.”

Scott Stabler is a history professor at Grand Valley State University specializing in the U.S. Civil War. He points out the United Daughters of the Confederacy perpetuated the idea the south won the war and that it wasn’t about slavery. He says almost all built by the Daughters and Sons of Confederate veterans."

The statue considered controversial is in the Allendale Community Park in the Veterans Garden of Honor. It depicts two soldiers standing back-to-back; a Union soldier and a Confederate soldier. At their feet, a Black child holding a sign reading “Freedom to Slaves.”

“Now, this thing is so weird because it’s 1998 which you would think’s a fairly progressive time when you would not put a black child in the middle of two white guys standing over them. And it just, to me, loses all agency for African Americans, right? You study the history of the Civil War and African Americans freed themselves. Some of these slaves kept escaping into Union lines forcing Lincoln to have to deal with it. He’d have to deal with the issue of slavery and he knew it was going to devastate the south because that was their labor, right? The south really mobilized a ton of their white soldiers because they had so much black labor at home. Once that African American labor started disappearing into Union lines it really messed up the entire idea of slavery and led to emancipation directly.”

As for the controversy?

“I think it’s still problematic because of the effect it has on people that see it rather than the intent. Today, it just isn’t appropriate.”

The Allendale Township Board of Trustees is meeting Tuesday for a resolution vote keeping the statue in the park.

I’m Patrick Center

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.