Last week a statue of former mayor, Orville Hubbard, was removed from the front of the old City Hall building in Dearborn, Michigan.
Hubbard, who served as the city’s mayor from 1942-1978, is known for being a segregationist with bigoted views.
One of his signature mottos “keeping Dearborn clean” was more of a euphemism for keeping Dearborn white and his campaign against low-income housing development included leaflets that encouraged citizens to “keep the Negroes out of Dearborn,” according to The Michigan Journal.
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Now that the statue has been removed, the city is a step closer to being free of the former mayor’s racist legacy. Two senior centers and a road still bear Hubbard’s name, but in time those may be changed as well.
Other cities throughout the nation, particularly in the South, still carry the legacies of racist figures through statues and monuments that are overlooked because they’ve "just always been around" even though they serve as a constant reminder of the divided, racist country that the U.S. is quickly reverting back to.
Edmund Pettus Bridge, a historical landmark in Selma, Alabama is a significant place in American civil rights history as it was the location of “Bloody Sunday” during protesters' march through Selma to Montgomery – however – the man for whom the bridge was named was a former Ku Klux Klan leader who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
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Confederate Square located in Gonzales,Texas is another well-known site with a racist history (just its name alone alludes to racism). The area serves as a tribute to the soldiers killed in the Confederate Army during the Civil War... and we all know what they fought for.
There are numerous odes to Robert E. Lee throughout the country including roads, high schools, universities and statues but it’s no secret that he, too, was a prominent Confederate leader during the Civil War.
Even the famous Statue of Liberty, a sculpture given to America as a gift from France, has a racist history.
She was originally sculpted with features in the likeness of a Black woman, with broken chains at her feet and in her left hand as a symbol of U.S. freedom related to the Civil War and the country's welcoming of immigrants.
The design went through many significant changes before becoming what we see today, as most works of art do. But one reason the statue was altered, which is often swept under the rug, is that she needed to be more acceptable to white Americans who didn’t approve of the monument bearing resemblance to an African American woman.
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We could go on extensively naming how many openly racist figures are honored throughout the United States, it comes as no surprise.
The U.S. still recognizes Columbus Day, for crying out loud! Even though we know he did nothing worthy of praise nor did he discover America.
The fact will always remain that this country was founded upon slavery and racism. But in 2015, racial tensions are still high and minorities are still fighting against hate and bigotry.
The existence of monuments that honor racist figures sends a dangerous message that our history isn't a significant factor in American life today. It implies that we should just ignore the negative impacts those people had on society.
Renaming and removing monuments that glorify racist figures is only the beginning of a very necessary call for change in America.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Creative Commons, Anne B. Hood