Black lawmakers say monument to Confederacy is an affront to their heritage and culture
May 19, 2021
Democratic lawmakers seek to rally votes for bills to do away with Confederate iconography at the Texas Capitol.
AUSTIN — Two Black state lawmakers say the monuments and holidays commemorating Texas' ties to the Confederacy represent a culture and heritage that should be reviled, not revered.
"For those that continue to say that this is about heritage and culture, I challenge any of them to meet my heritage and meet my culture," said state Rep. Jarvis Johnson, a Houston Democrat carrying legislation that would end the celebration of Confederate Heroes Day each January.
"My great-great grandfather fought in the Confederacy, for the Confederacy," he added. "My great-great grandfather was a slaveowner."
Jarvis, a state representative since 2016, said that as a slaveowner, his great-great grandfather raped and impregnated the slave who would become his great-great grandmother. He called the man a "vile human being" and said that neither he or any other Confederate soldier or slaveowner should be celebrated in 21st century Texas.
Royce West, a Dallas Democrat who is in his 28th year in the Texas Senate, said that as the nation focuses on healing the racial divide that is as old as the republic it is time to remove the several statues and other artwork in the Capitol saluting the Civil War.
"We want to make certain that these symbols of oppression, dehumanization of African Americans are taken down and put in their rightful place, in a museum," West said.
Opponents of removing monuments or other efforts to diminish recognition of Texas' role in the Civil War said the state should not erase its history, even the painful chapter of slavery.
Martha Hartzog, a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said in an interview in January more context needs to be included in the display of monuments and other public symbols from that era.
The monument to the Confederacy at the Texas Capitol. "However, I do feel that tearing down monuments is not the best solution." Hartzog said at the time.
Jarvis and West joined several lawmakers at a news conference Monday to call attention to bills aimed at removing Confederate iconography from the Capitol. Most Democrats have voiced support for the measures, but they face an uphill climb in the Republican-dominated Legislature.
Jarvis said that in addition to support from his Democratic colleagues, his measure, House Bill 36, has at least 10 House Republican supporters or cosponsors. It has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the House State Affairs Committee.
West is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 1186, by Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas. So far, no Republican members have signed up as co-sponsors. Anchia called his GOP colleagues, as members "of the party of Lincoln" to help him move the measure through the legislative mill before the 2021 session ends in late May.
West acknowledged it has a steep hill to climb.
State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, says Confederate monuments have no place at the Texas Capitol, April, 19, 2021. "Do we have the wherewithal, being defined as the votes in order to do it? We will try our best to make certain we get the votes," he said. "If we don't get them this time, we will try again next time. It's very important (to) the young people coming behind us.
"We (must) do everything in our power to make certain that persons that were part of the resistance (to slavery) are remembered here on the Capitol grounds and make certain that their story is told here at the state Capitol."
John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.