Confederate statues and memorials are coming down all over the U.S. after the proposed removal of such a statue led to last weekend’s deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A Confederate statue has stood in the Bentonville Square for more than a hundred years, but recent events are leading many to wonder whether it will remain here.
“It’s about heritage, it’s about history, it’s not about racism, it’s not about slavery,” says Courtney Hoggarth Hubbard, who started an online petition to keep the statue in the square.
After a protest on Sunday demanded the statue be taken down, petitions have been circulating online – some in support of removing the statue and others in support of keeping it.
“History should not be removed, it should not be erased, it should not be forgotten or rewritten, period.” Hoggarth Hubbard says.
A local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy erected the statue in 1908 in honor of James H. Berry and all Arkansans who served in the Civil War, but it was not made in the likeness of any one soldier.
“It’s across all the south, a lot of these were put up after the turn of the century in the early 1900s when the country is getting nostalgic about the war,” says Dr. Rebecca Howard, a former doctoral student at the University of Arkansas. Howard is now an assistant professor of history at Lone Star College-Montgomery.
Berry was a lieutenant in the Confederate Army and later became a Senator and the fourteenth governor of Arkansas.
But today, some believe the statue also memorializes the ideas of the Confederacy – namely slavery.
“I’m not sure it’s possible to separate a soldier’s service, no matter how honorable from their cause and these people did not have a problem with their cause,” Howard says.
Many have demanded the statue be removed and placed in a museum or another historical site.
“It is going to be very painful change if that happens for those people who are attached to this statue, there are other solutions I think,” says Octavio Sanchez, an alderman for the City of Bentonville.
According to court records, Benton County owns the square but the city of Bentonville has been in charge of its maintenance since 1996.
The city says the Daughters of the Confederacy own the actual statue but the organization did not return our calls or request for comment.
So far, neither the city nor the county has answered our questions about who will make the decisions concerning the future of the statue.