Earlier this week, the University of Texas at Austin removed Confederate statues from their campuses in the dead of night. This week, UT’s in-state rival, Texas A&M, refused to bow to the Confederate statues hysteria, saying their statue of a Confederate general-turned governor will stay.
The Aggies of A&M have always been independently-minded, so it likely isn’t a surprise that the university refuses to give in to pressure to remove the statue of Lawrence Sullivan “Sul” Ross, who served as a Confederate general during the Civil War but is better known for his post-war life.
The decision to keep the statue, however, is not in mere opposition to the sudden urgency to erase all markers of the Confederacy. Keeping the statue is a matter of practical history. Ross served as governor of Texas and was responsible for establishing the A&M university system.
Texas A&M President Michael K. Young said the iconic statue of Ross — who rose to the rank of general during the Civil War and later served as governor of Texas before coming to A&M — located on the College Station campus’ Academic Plaza is meant to honor the man specifically in his role as president of the university, not for his time in the Confederate Army.
“Without Sul Ross, neither Texas A&M University nor Prairie View A&M University would likely exist today,” Young said in a statement. “He saved our school and Prairie View through his consistent advocacy in the face of those who persistently wanted to close us down.”
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp echoed Young’s stance and in a statement said plainly “it will not be removed.”
“Anyone who knows the true history of Lawrence Sullivan Ross would never ask his statue to be removed,” Sharp said.
UT wasn’t the first prominent school to take down such monuments — Duke University removed a damaged statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee statue — but its stature as one of the country’s largest public universities could influence others. And in a state that has the most Confederate symbols except for Virginia, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a movement to get similar symbols removed could gain momentum.
Consider the stance by A&M as opposed to UT. Greg Fenves, President of UT, said this about the statues on his campus. He said the statues are “symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism…The historical and cultural significance of the Confederate statues on our campus — and the connections that individuals have with them — are severely compromised by what they symbolize. Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African-Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry.”
UT did, however, decide to move the statues to a museum, which most agree was a correct move, as it puts the figures in proper historical context. Their handling of the initial removal, without any input or notice, garnered criticism. In all, UT removed statues of Robert E. Lee, Confederate Gen. Albert Sydney Johnston, Confederate Postmaster John H. Reagan, and former Gov. James Stephen Hogg.
What do you think of the decisions by Texas A&M and the University of Texas regarding their confederate statues? Let us know in the comments, and in addition, share this on social media.