Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ed Gray, NDG Senior Columnist: Dallas, Lose Your Plantation Mentality and Remove Confederate Symbols

Ed Gray and Dr. Michael Phillips at Lee Park in Dallas. (NDG /Gray)

Straight Talk with Ed Gray, NDG Senior Columnist

I and some other historians led by Dr. Michael Phillips, collectively named “The Committee of Scholars” have engaged in probably the last Civil War battle in Dallas County. Wait a minute there have been no Civil War battles in Dallas County. However, if we are led to believe the numerous monuments, the South indeed has won the Civil War.

The Civil War fought between 1861-1865 has been romanticized by movies such as “Gone with the Wind”, and statues that glorify the defenders of slavery and white supremacy as sentinels of America.

Through my studies and research at Southern Methodist University we have cataloged dozens of streets, monuments, and schools named after Confederate leaders. From the implicit to the explicit, the bias is clear, Texas is more southern than western.

We all know the Dallas myth of origin, that Dallas had no reason to exist. That it was founded on a river, and in a few short years Dallas would become the largest city in Texas, by the late 1800s. It was a city more eastern than Fort Worth which is where they claim the west begins.

Sounds good except it is not true, Dallas was founded as a commercial outpost for trade, and an efficient way to accumulate wealth was through slavery. Dallas supported the secession from the United States of America in overwhelming numbers, was sympathetic to southern customs.

In 1896, Dallas first honored its Confederate sympathies by erecting the first outside statues of art commemorating its gods. The gods of white supremacy, the leaders of the ill-fated Confederate States of America.

I and several other scholars, wish to write history correctly, instead of whitewashing it incorrectly. The statues have a place in our history, in a museum where the history of the Confederacy can be told in black and white. Pun intended.

Perhaps it’s the history of the Confederacy with its hero, General Robert E. Lee mounted on the horse that we can learn about his barbaric attitude toward the African -Americans he enslaved. The stern visage of Lee that stands guard over Lee Park is a reminder of a bygone era. As African immigrants wed at Arlington Hall which is a replica of the former Virginia home of General Robert E. Lee, I wonder if these wedding guests realize black Dallasites were once forbidden to enter the park.

The city of Dallas administers Lee Park along with the Lee Park and Arlington Conservatory. This consortium is a coalition of the Dallas Southern Memorial Association, Turtle Creek Association, Oak Lawn Forum, The Oak Lawn Committee, and The Turtle Creek Guild. The park is ingrained into Dallas history and social circles.

Though the park was not always named Lee Park. The park was originally named Oak Lawn Park and according to southern customs and Dallas city ordinances, African-American citizens were not allowed entrance. Lee Park has always been one of the premier parks in the Dallas Parks system.
Lee Park originally named Oak Lawn Park was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt, who in a show of support for white supremacy, and the lost cause of the Confederacy extolled the virtues of one of its foremost leaders. Oak Lawn Park was then, as it is now, a symbol of southern genteel and charm honoring a traitorous, rebel army, hell bent in a sanctimonious display of white supremacy.

Confederate monuments are not only at Oak Lawn Park, they are also embedded into Dallas history at Pioneer Park Cemetery. The Confederate monuments have had a long history in Dallas with its resting place at the Pioneer Park in downtown Dallas.

Generals Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, and Stonewall Jackson, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis were originally located at what is now Old City Park, formerly Sullivan Park. The dedication of the Confederate statues occurred in 1896 and was witnessed by several Confederate veterans, and several thousand Dallas citizens.

The Confederate Memorial, an obelisk quartered with the statues of the Confederates, bear silent witness to Dallas’ history regarding its treatment of African American citizens. This monument was moved from City Park in 1961 to its current location adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center. The move was made because of the construction of RL Thornton Freeway.

Today there is a debate on whether to remove these statues in their coveted places of honor in Oak Lawn Park and Pioneer Cemetery to a more fitting location. Historians like myself believe that these statues must come down.

Ironically there is a Confederate Cemetery in South Dallas off Malcolm X Boulevard. Perhaps these monuments would be relocated there, the irony of the moment for this historian cannot be overstated. In a fitting end indeed, this would be a most ignoble defeat for the lost cause.

Perhaps they belong in a museum where historians can teach the history of these men who once disavowed allegiance to the United States. This might be a proper destination for a cause that is unAmerican. Wherever the trip for these symbols of hatred, they must be moved.

We must not be politically correct, but morally correct, slavery is the African-American’s Holocaust. Though we cannot deny slavery existed, we certainly can deny the defenders and protectors of slavery a place of honor in the halls of history.

I am Ed Gray and this is straight talk.

Gray has an Associate of Applied Sciences, from El Centro Community College. He also has Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, from Southern Methodist University, a Masters of Liberal Studies in History, from Southern Methodist University, and is currently a doctoral student at Southern Methodist University in the field of Human Rights.

Ed Gray is one of the founders of “The Committee of Scholars”, the Dallas-Fort Worth academic professors and graduate professionals in history. The Committee of Scholars is currently leading the fight to remove Confederate symbolism in Dallas, Texas.

4 COMMENTS

  1. The statues need to be removed to a museum – no doubt. Also, more statues/memorials need to be constructed to recognize more of the occasions and individuals that made positive contributions to the history of the Dallas black community.

    Also, when speaking of the formation of Dallas, my studies indicate that John Neely Bryan said that Indians occupied the land where Dallas was built when he first noticed it. Bryan is said to have left and returned the next year. Upon his return, he found the land unoccupied. He then started the city of Dallas on the land. To me; this sounds like a story with missing pieces. What really happened to the Indians? Is this another case where the Indians were killed off before their land was taken with the real story never being told? Is this the real reason behind the insanity of John Neely Bryan in his later years? Just saying….

  2. As this dialogue has progressed over the last week following the terror of Charlottesville, VA, I must wonder how some folk can still talk about how important it is to honor the memories of their ancestors when placed against the fury we saw in Neo-Nazis marching with torches with blood in their eyes – ignited and ready to maim over the removal of a chunk of granite that never had life.
    Clearly that has nothing to do with cherishing memories of the relatives they have never seen. It is now about growing, rekindled racial hatred and making America White again. Sadly this fury is condoned if not stoked by the current Un-Precedent of the United States.
    Blacks in America cannot survive unarmed while others can provoke physical confrontations with police with little mortal fear. Maybe I missed the fire hoses and dogs being sicced on them.

  3. It’s no time for half-measures. Non-PC statues of dead Confederate soldiers? Wrongly-titled street signs? New park names? These are play things – trivial matters. How about examining the man behind the city’s name.

    Dallas the City is named after George Mifflin Dallas the man, 11th VP of the United States.

    He supported the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 (after the fact, since he was only 1- yr old in 1793), and the 1850 version – when he was deep into antebellum politics.

    Re. the Act of 1850 he said, “‘I say that this [1850] fugitive slave law, in its substance, in its details, in all its features and all its provisions is in perfect harmony with the Constitution of our country.”

    He believed the US Constitution gave every state the right to decide for itself it would be free or slave, and that would only change when the Constitution was amended.

    He supported the Dred Scott decision and sharply criticized the two SCOTUS Judges who wrote the dissenting opinions.

    As US Minister to the Court of St. James, he was seen by some Brit statesmen (they were all men) as representing American slavery when he negotiated a treaty that meant that the British Navy would no long stop, search and seize US flagged ships that carried slaves.

    In his diary entry for July 24, 1860 he wrote: ““[M]y individual opinion as to the races being unequal in intellect is strong, but the point has never been studied, and could not be handled in the slightest manner without exhibiting weakness.”

    He essentially called Harriett Beecher Stowe (author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”) a traitor worse than Burr and Arnold.

    The City of Dallas is named after Dallas this man, VP under POTUS James K. Polk – according to the United States Senate (where he once served) and the April 19, 1925, edition of The Dallas Morning News, just to mention two sources.

    And the City Council is focused on statues? Really?

  4. Would you be kind and help me contact Mr. Ed Gray. I am a former teacher of his and I would be so happy to catch up with him. He was always one of my favorites!

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