According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), 168 Confederate symbols were either banned or removed from public spaces across the United States in 2020.
The SPLC released its 2020 year-end update to its Whose Heritage? report data and map last week which tracks public symbols of the Confederacy around the nation.
Ninety-four of those symbols taken down last year were Confederate monuments compared to the 58 Confederate monuments that were removed between 2015 and 2019.
The SPLC says at least 167 of those symbols were removed after the death of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 by Minnesota police officers.
By the end of 2020, Virginia remained the leader in removing Confederate symbols with 71, followed by North Carolina with 24 and Alabama and Texas tied for third place with 12.
“We must recognize states like Virginia who not only had the courage to discontinue its preservation law, but also led by example after removing 71 Confederate symbols from their public spaces in 2020,” SPLC Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks said.
2020 a Transformative Year, According to the SPLC
“Name changes are pending for 31 public schools across the country in 2021, ensuring that students will no longer be forced to learn in schools bearing racist namesakes,” she said.
While a total of 312 Confederate symbols have been removed or relocated from public spaces following the Charleston, S.C. church shooting in 2015, under the South Carolina Heritage Act of 2000, no symbols were removed in South Carolina last year despite efforts led by grassroots groups, says the SPLC.
“2020 was a transformative year for the Confederate symbols movement. Over the course of seven months, more symbols of hate were removed from public property than in the preceding four years combined,” Brooks said.
She continued that despite this progress, communities have informed the SPLC about more than 300 Confederate symbols that remain across the U.S.
Many are in the south, specifically Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, where preservation laws prohibit communities from removing them.
“These dehumanizing symbols of pain and oppression continue to serve as backdrops to important government buildings, halls of justice, public parks, and U.S. military properties, including ten bases named after Confederate leaders across the South,” Brooks said.
The Whose Heritage? report was created in response to the shooting deaths by a white supremacist of nine Black people during Bible study at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015 gunman.
The SPLC began to catalog all the Confederate symbols in public spaces across the country and inform communities about how to remove them.
While hundreds have been removed, the report finds that more than 2,100 Confederate symbols are still publicly present in the U.S., 704 of them monuments.
This encompasses government buildings, Confederate monuments and statues, plaques, markers, schools, parks, counties, cities, military property and streets and highways named after anyone associated with the Confederacy.
“As witnessed on Jan. 6 when an insurrectionist brazenly carried a Confederate flag through the halls of the U.S. Capitol, Confederate symbols are a form of systemic racism used to intimidate, instill fear, and remind Black people that they have no place in American society,” Brooks said.
“The SPLC firmly believes that all symbols of white supremacy should be removed from public spaces and will continue to support community efforts to remove, rename and relocate them.”