A complex heritage

November 19, 2008

Through much of its 113-year history, Louisville’s Confederate Monument has drawn its share of criticism.

Conceived by Confederate widows, the monument was to be carved by Louisville artist Enid Yandell, who did the statue of Daniel Boone in Cherokee Park. But scandal erupted over the choice of Ms. Yandell (she was a woman, to begin with, and some enemies alleged improprieties in her selection). So the contract went instead to the proprietor of the Muldoon Monument Co.

Its placement at the intersection of Third Street and Brandeis Avenue made it controversial from a traffic engineer’s perspective. In 1947, when plans to move it were announced, future Mayor Charles P. Farnsley grabbed his musket and donned his Army of the South hat to defend the monument.

(Mr. Farnsley, one of our city’s greatest mayors, went on to champion civil rights and as a member of Congress was an active supporter of Lyndon Johnson’s civil and voting rights acts.)

In the 60 years that have followed, the monument has drawn criticism from those who are offended by its glorification of men who died to preserve the Old South and slavery. Beginning in the 1960s, it became a target for demonstrations and denunciation.

Now, with the support of the University of Louisville and the state, plans are underway to develop Freedom Park, a place to explore Louisville’s own antebellum heritage. The $2 million project will make the congested area more easily traversed. And the park’s centerpiece will be a civil rights memorial by sculptor Ed Hamilton, the Louisville artist who is completing the city’s Lincoln memorial.

More fund-raising will be necessary to complete the park’s development, and we encourage as many as possible to join in the effort. What better way for future generations of Louisvillians to understand their complicated heritage and, even more, be challenged to create a city where diversity is cherished and equal opportunity abounds. That’s something even Charlie Farnsley would have saluted.

On The Web:  http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20081119/OPINION01/811190618