Committee recommends City repurpose Jacksonville Confederate monuments, rather than remove

Jacksonville, FL. — On June 9, 2020, Mayor Lenny Curry addressed a crowd of peaceful protesters in front of City Hall.

Curry spoke during a march organized by former Jaguars running back, Leonard Fournette, and addressed the removal of a Confederate statue honoring Charles C. Hemming.

“And the [other Confederate monuments] in this city will be removed as well,” said Mayor Curry.

The statue stood atop a pedestal in what was formerly known as Hemming Park. The park has since been renamed to James Weldon Johnson Park.

In August, the city tapped six people to form an unofficial committee to advise the city of challenges and solutions to monuments being vandalized amid civil unrest in the summer 2020.

The committee, made up of six people, included art professionals, historians, and city planners.

Action News Jax obtained a recently completed report by the committee.

It lists recommendations for the pedestal standing in James Weldon Johnson park, the Monument to the Women of the Southland in Springfield park, and the Grandstand in the Old City Cemetery.

The report makes separate recommendations for each monument, including proposals for repurposing the monuments with more historical context, and including people of other backgrounds.

Full removal of the monuments from the public eye was not proposed by the committee.

Dr. David Jamison, an associate professor at Edward Waters College who served on the committee, says there was no museum to put the monuments, and giving them to private groups or destroying them, were not options for the committee.

“So, we didn’t want to give them to a private individual because we didn’t want them to become, to be put up in a private space, so that people could make them objects of pilgrimages,” said Dr. Jamison. “So, we didn’t see that as a good idea.”

But activists, including the Northside Coalition’s Ben Frazier, feel repurposing the monuments falls short of the Mayor’s promises.

“I stand on the Mayor’s word. He said these monuments would be removed. When we marched in the streets and he marched along with us, he said clearly that these monuments would be removed,” said Frazier. “… [Repurposing the monuments is] not an option because these monuments should be removed for the reasons they were put up here. We understand that they represent, hatred, slavery, people who fought to promote and perpetuate slavery.”

Action News Jax reached out to the Mayor’s office by email asking how the committee’s recommendations would be used.

“The City is reviewing the attached report,” said a city spokesperson. “The Mayor requested that the administration work with the group that assembled to hear the group’s input on potential challenges with removal and suggestions on how to interpret the monuments and markers. The group’s work was recently finalized with the attached report. Mayor Curry is working with Council President Hazouri, who agreed to establish a Council “Social Justice Committee” which has been meeting for nearly a year and have made several investments targeted toward addressing inequalities and other socio-economic issues.”