Slaves were emancipated in the United States 154-years-ago; more than five-generations. The Ladies Memorial Association of St Augustine erected their first memorial to The Forty-Four lost St Augustine soldiers in 1872. Seven years later, the current memorial was relocated to the Plaza; 140-years-ago in 1879 — fully five generations ago.
The Gainesville advocate trying to take down our cenotaph, a man who masquerades by day as a pastor at St Paul’s AME Church, says it is a “monument to slavery”. And, even though abolished a century and a half ago, white citizens in St Augustine still benefit from the sins of slavery today. Although there is no evidence that Ronald Rawls Jr is anything more than a hustler preying on our residents, we assume he has had some religious familiarization.
There is consensus among Jews and Christians, including our families who founded this city, that God’s message, through the words of Moses in the book of Exodus, is that those guilty of sins against Him will not be cleared. He will visit “the iniquity of the fathers” on the children, and their children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Perhaps Rawls considers himself able to speak for God or to change His word to suit himself?
Without trying to invoke religion or emotional influence, we can rationally say the names of forty-four local St Augustine veterans were killed during the American Civil War, and those names appear on the cenotaph. Some of the city’s most prominent families are named on the memorial and many descendants and relatives of the soldiers still live here.
Private funds built it, but in none of the threats to the peace of our city has anyone offered to pay to move it, or even take it down. Who will insure against damage to the structure?
City taxpayers are footing the contextualization bills, but who is going to pay to move the cenotaph? And, where will they move it? Reportedly the city manager’s office called the local cemeteries, and none was willing to accept it.
No meaningful number of residents or taxpayers have come forward to demand anything be done to the memorial at all. Where are those voices? Do they even exist? Before these recent attacks on our family’s good names, no one advanced any complaint whatsoever. So, what about descendants whose parents or grandparents want to visit St Augustine and show their children their relative’s name on the iconic memorial? Their voice is somehow less important?
Had anyone really been offended by the memorial, they apparently moved along to another part of the Plaza — perhaps to the foot soldier’s monument or Andrew Young sidewalk. The rational fact is that this 1879 obelisk is not a Monument to the US Civil War, or to slavery. It stands in memory of forty-four veterans from St Augustine. They were conscripted into service, they bravely went into battle, they lost their lives during the war and their human remains were never returned for burial.
It is all that we have to honor them, it is all we have to grieve their loss. The overwhelming majority of St Augustine residents and taxpayers say, “Leave it alone”. We agree.