(June 21, 2107) Like many Southern towns, Tampa contemplates removing its solitary Confederate statue. As a tangible historical representation of the popular sentiment in the area when it was erected in 1911, however, it should remain. Later memorials can similarly show—tangibly—how sentiments changed.
Few present critics realize Florida’s extraordinary commitment to the Confederacy. It was the only state that provided more soldiers than were registered to vote at the start of the Civil War. There can be no wonder that the surviving family members wanted to honor the loved and lost. It would have been unnatural if they had not. Modern critics also fail to realize that the survivors endured forty-five years of post Civil War poverty before they were even able to save enough money to afford a statue, despite the fact that Northern statues permeated the battlefield parks, beginning decades earlier.
Instead of removing the 1911 monument it is better to authorize new memorials honoring later historical figures that championed reformations reflecting the attitudes of their own times. One Tampa example is the renaming of fourteen-mile long Buffalo Avenue for Martin Luther King.
In fact, Florida seems to have done more to memorialize King than have many Northern states. Our state has 19 MLK streets distributed among its cities whereas Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island have none, while Iowa and Minnesota have one, Connecticut two, Massachusetts two, and Pennsylvania three.
Moreover, all the former Confederate states generally have far more streets honoring King than similarly sized Northern states. North Carolina and New Jersey, for example, have comparable populations but the Southern state has twenty-nine MLK streets whereas the Northern one has only eight. Similarly, even though Ohio has four times the population of Mississippi, the Buckeye State has only eight MLK streets whereas the state with the Confederate banner in its flag has sixteen.
When using MLK street memorials as a yardstick it seems that the Northern states are the ones with a racial sensitivity deficit.