At some point in the last few days, somebody knocked over the monument to the Confederate soldiers in Lakeview Cemetery, at the north end of Volunteer Park.
Of course this act raises lots of questions, among them: Who was responsible? How did they manage to topple such a sturdy structure? And also: what the fuck was it doing there in the first place?
The memorial (not a grave, there are no bodies buried beneath it) was erected in the mid-1920s by the Seattle chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). It’s made out of granite from Georgia’s Stone Mountain, birthplace of the modern KKK, and it’s long been a target of campaigns for its removal. Maybe now that it’s lying smashed in pieces we might finally be rid of it at last.
Seattle’s chapter of the UDC seems to have gone dormant at some point in the last decade — their website was last updated in 2013, according to the Wayback Machine. But the cached version of their “history” page mentions that the monument was erected largely thanks to a Seattle transplant named Mrs. May Avery Wilkins, whose father, a colonel in the Confederate army, fought to uphold slavery.
(The cached site also lists the local chapter’s officers, in case you’d like to know which of your neighbors were a part of that organization.)
It’s a little unclear who’s going to take charge of the monument (or what’s left of it) now. In the past, Lake View has said it’s not their responsibility, and when called for comment today, a chagrined front-desk receptionist could only say: “Nobody wants to talk right now.”
Often, the national UDC organization pays for the upkeep of memorials like this one. (We called, but it went to voicemail.) Then again, it would not be totally unreasonable for them to look at a memorial that has no geographic connection to their history, in a city where everybody hates it, and think, “You know what, maybe it’s not worth it.”
So with the cemetery wishing everyone would stop talking about it, the local chapter gone with the wind, and the national chapter maybe not eager to devote resources to this particular lost cause, what’s to become of this racist pile of rubble?
Well, if the spot where it once stood can be cleaned up, maybe it’s time for another memorial. Washington’s Route 99 used to be named (unofficially) for Jefferson Davis; now it’s named for William P. Stewart, a Black Civil War pioneer who later made his way west.
In the same way, if we want to, we could all push for the plot of land that once honored a racist army to be improved with a memorial that honors someone with, you know, honor.