While many states and counties are calling for Confederate statues to be removed, News 6 found that most Confederate statues and monuments have already either been relocated or reside in cemeteries or museums.
The meaning behind Confederate monuments and statues has been an ongoing debate for years.
“It was a way of honoring their dead. It was a way of honoring husbands, it was a way of honoring sons and people who were impacted by the event. Others would say these were 100 percent put out as symbols of white supremacy and an ongoing chase of holding the country to that belief system. I don’t know that there’s ever a correct answer for why they were placed,” said Chief Curator of the Orange County Regional History Center, Pam Schwartz.
Schwartz said both sides may have valid arguments, but it all comes down to appropriate interpretation and use of those symbols.
“If it doesn’t belong in a public park, where does it belong? In a cemetery where nobody will see it except for those who go to visit? Does it belong in a museum where maybe some of the individuals who could learn from it are not frequent visitors,” said Schwartz.
In 2017 the “Johnny Reb” Confederate statue was taken down from Lake Eola and relocated to the Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando. The city made the decision after it received complaints that the statue did not represent Orlando and should not be located in a public park.
Marion County on the other hand has a “Johnny Red” Confederate statue in a public park. In 2010 the county relocated the statue from the courthouse to the Veterans Memorial Park in Ocala, during the expansion of the courthouse.
Because this statue sits in a public park, the upkeep and maintenance is funded by the tax dollars of Marion County residents. The county said it costs about $500 a year to maintain the statue.
While some counties across America are taking down or relocating its Confederate statues, Lake County won a bid to acquire one from the National Statuary Hall in D.C. Lawmakers voted to replace the statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith with a statue of a civil rights leader.
The group Lake County Voices of Reason has been fighting against the decision for about two years, hosting several protests.
“They keep saying it’s history, but what we continue to tell him is that it’s not our history so it doesn’t belong here. There are no ties of Kirby Smith to our area,” said Cassandra Brown, president of Lake County Voices of Reason.
The group even filed a lawsuit against the county to keep the statue from being put on display at the Lake County Historical Museum. The museum is housed inside the county's courthouse. The Groveland Four monument sits right outside.
“We’re not saying destroy them. There are places in Florida like the state museum, there are a couple of Confederate parks,” said Reverend Michael J. Watkins, a member of Lake County Voices of Reason.
Commissioner Leslie Campione is one of three Lake County commissioners who voted in favor of the statue. She sent News 6 a statement expressing her frustration with the issue after she says she's been receiving many emails and phone calls.
“Dear Lake County Residents: I have received many emails and phone calls on this topic. Often I can discern from the question of the content of emails I receive that many erroneous facts are circulating about this matter. Unfortunately, right now, it doesn’t seem that the majority of people in our country are as focused on facts and nuances as they are focused on national politics and achieving over-arching agendas. Often I am bombarded with caustic language and accusations regarding our local museum‘s decision to display the Smith statue in its war gallery upon its removal from the US Capitol, and I am subjected to virtue shaming if I don’t intervene and censor the museum curator’s decision (that is, if you don’t do what I demand then you are immoral, despicable and racist). Our country is at a crossroads where genuine, respectful, fact-based dialogue is needed now more than anytime I can remember in my lifetime. As I seek to find a path that assures we protect freedom of speech, freedom of thought and opinion; and a path where we promote tolerance, civility, and genuine problem-solving of local issues worthy of attention, I would ask that you consider your role in that process in conjunction with my role. Are you in favor of tolerance and the preservation of our country’s First Amendment? Are you willing to discuss hard topics with realistic solutions in mind? Are you willing to call out vandalism, looting and destruction as morally wrong despite the merit of the grievance? Are you willing to listen to all of the facts of any issue before rushing to judgement, or before jumping on the bandwagon of the political party or philosophy you generally associate with? Are you willing to consider local nuances and take in account a coworker‘s or neighbor’s perceptions when formulating local your own opinion or promoting a particular policy? We all need to ask these questions of ourselves if we are going to navigate genuine solutions to the difficult questions facing our country, and the immediate issues, like the Smith statue, facing our county.”
The other commissioners who also voted in favor of the statue include Josh Blake and Timothy Sullivan.
Schwartz said there may be no right answer when deciding what to do with Confederate monuments, but said county leaders need to hear both sides from their neighbors before making a decision.
“Those communities need to have frank and difficult conversations about how to address it, but leaving it unaddressed will only make things more difficult as modern-day things keep happening,” said Schwartz.
Information about some of the Confederate monuments in Central Florida was included in the book 'Recalling Deeds Immortal: Florida Monuments to the Civil War by William Lees and Frederick Gaske.
The following descriptions are included in the book:
Orlando - 1911; Large elaborately decorated and inscribed marble shaft topped with a marble statue of a Confederate soldier; Dedicated to Confederate soldiers, sailors, and statesmen; Erected by United Daughters of the Confederacy; Originally erected in downtown Orlando at the intersection of Central Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue; Moved to Lake Eola Park in 1917 after being deemed a traffic hazard; Moved again in 2017 by City of Orlando to the Confederate section in Greenwood Cemetery following public protests after violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia over their Robert E. Lee monument.
Kissimmee - 2002; Rose Hill Cemetery; Granite obelisk; Dedicated to Confederate veterans buried in Osceola County with their names listed on the monument; Erected by Sons of Confederate Veterans.
St. Cloud - 2006; Veterans Park; Granite obelisk; Dedicated to Confederate veterans buried in Osceola County with their names listed on the monument; Erected by Sons of Confederate Veterans; Nearly identical to the 2002 Kissimmee monument.
Leesburg – 1935; Lone Oak Cemetery; Memorial fountain made of rustic limestone; Erected by United Daughters of the Confederacy but dedicated to soldiers of all wars; An adjacent 20-foot flagpole and inscribed granite block dedicated to Civil War veterans buried there was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 2005.
Ocala – 1908; Large elaborately decorated and inscribed marble shaft topped with a marble statue of a Confederate soldier; Dedicated to Confederate soldiers; Erected by United Daughters of the Confederacy; Originally erected at the Marion County Courthouse in downtown Ocala; Moved to the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park about 2 miles east of downtown in 2010 following protests regarding its location at a county building.
Oxford – 2007; Pine Level Cemetery; Upright granite slab monument listing the names of Confederate veterans buried in the cemetery; Erected by Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Daytona Beach - 1961; Riverfront Park; Originally a marble base and column topped with a sundial (by the early 1980s all that remained was its base and its bronze plaque); Dedicated to the Confederate dead; Erected by United Daughters of the Confederacy; Plaque was removed by the City of Daytona Beach in 2017 after violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia over their Robert E. Lee monument; Was to be given to Halifax Historical Museum. [Two other bronze plaques were erected in Riverfront Park by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1979 and 1985 which listed the names of Confederate veterans buried in East Volusia County. They were mounted on a long granite wall with other plaques commemorating various US wars. They were also removed by the city in 2017 to also be given to the Halifax Historical Museum.]
DeLand - 1958; Oakdale Cemetery; Upright granite slab monument with bronze plaques listing the names of Confederate veterans buried in the cemetery; Erected by United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Ormond Beach - 2011; Pilgrim’s Rest Cemetery; Monument consists of a flagpole and a concrete base with an attached bronze Southern Cross of Honor and a granite slab listing the names of Confederate veterans buried there; Erected by Confederate Sons Association of Florida.
There is also a Union monument in Orlando (1910, Greenwood Cemetery) and two Union monuments in Osceola County (St. Cloud - 1915, Mt. Peace Cemetery and 2000, Veterans Park).