Mayor encourages committee candidates to apply now

St Augustine mayor Nancy Shaver told Historic City News that as the deadline for applications approaches, those readers who might still be interested in serving on a volunteer committee considering how to “contextualize” the city’s only Confederate memorial should act now.  You only have until the end of the month to apply, Shaver said.

Since the city commission voted unanimously that they would not attempt to relocate the memorial from the Plaza de la Constitution, a move that most agree would likely result in irreparable damage to the nearly 150-year-old obelisk, city management has been moving forward with plans to better tell a historically accurate account of the city during the Civil War era.

“An important role of this committee will be to recommend best practices in communicating that story to the millions of annual visitors to our community,” Shaver told local reporters.  “I believe most residents of St Augustine are not interested in destroying our existing historic artifact, but rather, in adding to it — in a way that will be both interesting and educational.”

In an interview with PBS station WJCT in Jacksonville earlier this week, Shaver said rather than honoring a specific Confederate figure, “the St. Augustine monument, erected before the Jim Crow era, is strictly a war memorial — not glorifying slavery.”

The monument memorializes 44 Confederate soldiers from St. Augustine, but Shaver said she’s since learned there were union soldiers from the area, too.  She would like to see those soldiers honored on the same ground.

One dissenter, Ronald Rawls, Jr., a leader at St Paul’s AME Church in Lincolnville, but a resident of Gainesville, organized a protest to interrupt the annual lighting of the city Christmas tree and kick-off to the popular Nights of Lights event.  A group of about 160 demonstrators, the bulk either bussed or traveling from other counties, were not well received by the local community of parents who gathered with their children and grandchildren to celebrate the excitement of the holidays.  No violence was reported nor were there any arrests during the confrontation.

Rawls has threatened continued protests and disruption to the local economy unless his demands are met to take down the confederate memorial in the Plaza and another monument to General William Loring that is owned by the State of Florida and outside the city’s control.

Mayor Shaver says the city’s monument is not the same as others that have been taken down around the country.

“The monuments that have been taken down elsewhere were largely known as lost cause monuments,” Shaver explained.  “What we have is a memorial on our plaza that was contemporaneous with the end of the Civil War that has the names of the Confederate dead from St. Augustine.”

“The lost cause” myth is a term referred to by some historians and academics that seeks to present the American Civil War from the perspective of Confederates in the best possible terms, according to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

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