Baltimore residents oppose the marking of the birthdays of two Confederate generals on the same weekend as Martin Luther King Day


Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: In Baltimore on Saturday, January 17, a silent protest was held in opposition to the celebration of Confederate generals during the same weekend as Martin Luther King Day. Speakers said they are simply honoring generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in defending against efforts to rewrite history. UNIDENTIFIED: Only a parasite would defame the names of generals Lee and Jackson. Only a parasite would denigrate the service of our Confederate ancestors. And only a parasite would inject the malicious bile of calumny and fabrication into the bloodstream of our Southern heritage. NOOR: Opponents note although the statue honoring Lee and Jackson dates back to the 1940s, it only became a rallying point in Baltimore in 1987 after Martin Luther King Day was established as a federal holiday. Seventeen-year-old high school senior and neighborhood resident Seraju Keyende [spl?] organized a counter protest with his family and a local anti-racist Quaker group. SURAJU KEHINDE, COUNTER-PROTEST ORGANIZER: Ever since I was five, I’d always hear the drums and I would look outside. And I thought they were very interesting. But then, later, when I became older, I started to realize what they were doing it for. And I don’t have a problem with them celebrating Stonewall Jackson Lee and his birthday, except I don’t appreciate how they do it on Martin King’s birthday weekend. NOOR: This is author and historian Gerald Horne. GERALD HORNE, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR: I think it’s also a pro-racist response. It’s an anti-black response. Obviously, they know that the establishment of the King holiday was a great people’s victory. It was a setback for those who hold dear Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. ~~~ NOOR: What do you say to people that say, change the date because it’s inflammatory to African Americans and that, like, the Confederate flag is a symbol of white supremacy and racism? MICHAEL GLENN, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS: No, the Confederate flag belongs to–different groups steal the Confederate flag for their own purposes. The people who oppose–I mean, they’re entitled to–this is what this country is all about, freedom of speech. So if they oppose us, we do what we think is best for our interests. They’re entitled to the way they think. ~~~ HORNE: I’d like to have something that they’re smoking, ’cause obviously it’s quite potent. If we were to awake from the dead Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis and Vice President Alexander Stephens of Georgia, they would be quite shocked to hear that there’s a session that had nothing to do with slavery. They said at the time that it was all about slavery. And, of course, they were correct. GLENN: It’s not political; it’s to honour these two great men. NOOR: Dayvon Love, director of research and public policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, says the ideology represented by the pro-Confederate groups are more prevalent today than many would like to acknowledge. DAYVON LOVE, DIRECTOR AT LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: Oftentimes people reduce the concept of racism and white supremacy to the kinds of folks you talk to today, who are celebrating a legacy that was kind of overtly celebration of Southern plantations and chattel slavery. What I think we should learn from demonstrations and groups like the one you encountered today is that America and the collective American consciousness is more akin to those types of folks than it likes to realize. And I think when you say that their statement is that it’s not racist, it’s the same way that the average society tries to say that we don’t live in a racist society, because they will make the argument that the Confederacy is just a cultural history they want to preserve in a way that they try to distance it from the damage that it did and that it continued to do to black people. And so this is a move that is very common, not just in neo-Confederate representatives and neo-Confederate activists or political figures, but this is prevalent in mainstream American discourse. NOOR: From Baltimore, this is Jaisal Noor.

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Jaisal Noor

General Assignment Reporter

Jaisal is a host, producer, and reporter for TRNN. With his expertise in education policy and systemic inequity, he focuses on Baltimore, Maryland. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio NewsDemocracy Now! and The Indypendent.

Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years.