The debate on confederacy: A historical perspective on a monumental issue

Matt Dougherty reports from Varner-Hogg Plantation where both sides of the story of Texas confederacy is told and preserved at the historical site.

BRAZORIA COUNTY, Texas - A historian is putting the Houston-area confederate monuments into context, saying they were erected for purposes other than commemorating the dead.

Most of the local confederate statues and monuments were built around the turn of the 19th Century, when racial violence was at its height.

“If you look at the time through the 1890s, it was the high-point of lynchings,” said University of Houston-Downtown associate history professor, Gene Preuss. “It meant that they wanted to preserve the good ole days.  It was a way of keeping blacks in their place.”

Advocates fighting to keep Houston’s monuments in place have said their removal from public places would mean the “erasing of history.” They claim the monuments serve as a reminder of the Houston-area’s confederate past.

That past is open for observation about a one-hour drive southwest of Houston in Brazoria County.

The Texas Historical Commission tells both sides of the story at the Varner-Hogg plantation, which was once home to sugarcane planters and their hundreds of slaves.

Visitors can imagine a tranquil existence among the oaks dripping with Spanish moss, rooms filled with antiques and artwork on the walls.

They can also see the life most people who lived on the plantation experienced — life as a slave.

“You talk about erasing history, if you say that there wasn’t slavery, that’s more of erasing history than pulling down the monuments,” Preuss said.

Preuss says students have been mislead over the years by misinformation from the public education system.

He says students were taught the Civil War was not about slavery, when in reality, the ability to own slaves was the central issue that led to the war.

Although he contends the monuments were conceived with racist motivations, he does not believe they should be destroyed.

“Put them in a museum where they can re-interpreted,” Preuss said. “Those are works of art, you don’t want to just destroy them. But I don’t think a community should have to keep something in public that a community doesn’t feel is representative."

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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