The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is among the chorus of voices calling for the city’s Confederate monuments to be inventoried.
Modern Cities co-founder Ennis Davis said there’s a business case for better understanding the city’s past.
“There’s certainly an economic interest in terms of image that the city has in attracting high-skilled companies and high-skilled employees in coming to Jacksonville,” Davis said. “So that’s definitely very important in terms of business.”
He said another reason cities might want to look into the context behind why certain memorials were established is because history can get lost over time.
“This whole debate is pretty controversial because periods of time — whether it was through Black Codes or situations where certain segments of society were marginalized from participating in political decisions— led to the creation of monuments or memorials that may not be representative of that community’s actual true past,” he said.
For example, he said, most people don’t realize that during the 1890s Jacksonville was a majority African-American town, partly because during the Reconstruction era many former slaves moved here for railroad or port jobs.
“So the reason that you want to get this inventory is that you want to find out what your true past is, and if you can discover what that true past is you then have the opportunity to economically market and advance,” he said.
He said Savannah, Charleston, St. Augustine, and San Francisco are all examples of cities that successfully identified their past and used them to economically enhance their futures.
Ennis Davis is co-founder of Modern Cities.