LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – The statue of a confederate soldier vandalized over the weekend in the Cherokee Triangle is leading to a much bigger discussion with the Mayor about public art and statues, and what is linked to racism and slavery.
The city of Louisville may have started a nationwide trend with its removal of the Confederate monument near UofL nearly a year ago, but some people tell WHAS that the city is behind the times when it comes to monuments like one dedicated to J.B. Castleman, and now they must offer up some context whether or not they remove these statues.
“History is a discussion,” historian Tom Owen said. “It’s an ongoing discussion.”
In the wake of Charlottesville riots, vandals took out their frustration on a statue of J.B. Castleman.
“He’s sitting on Emily the champion horse,” Owen said. “He’s there looking at what was formerly the main entrance to the new Cherokee Park.”
While a nearby tablet describes Castleman’s accomplishments it leaves out the fact that he was convicted of spying for the Confederacy and sentenced to death.
“Either they don’t know or they don’t care,” Dr. Ricky Jones said.
“It is an important part of history but it needs to be in the proper context,” Mayor Greg Fischer said.
In response, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has called for a review of all public art in his city
“That’s not art,” Jones said. “These are symbols of oppression and racism let’s be clear. These are symbols that celebrate people who are traitors to their country.”
WHAS has identified 8 neighboring communities with Confederate monuments on display, some of which stand in cemeteries, but the most controversial may sit just a few floors beneath the Mayor’s office.
“There’s a difference between a Confederate monument, and a monument to a slave owner,” Owen said. “We certainly have at least one of these and that’s the monument to Henry Clay who owned slaves, lived in Lexington. He’s in the rotunda of Metro Hall.”
While a committee must now decide what stays and what goes Jones and Owen have a little advice.
“Recognize people in our long Louisville history white, and black, who shared a vision frequently at significant personal cost that our city could become someday a place where there was a level playing field,” Owen said.
“You know what they are,” Jones said. “You know what they represent. Now, what are you going to do about them?”