Florida among leaders in removing Confederate memorials, thanks to Jacksonville
Florida removed the third-most Confederate memorials of any state last year, driven mostly by Jacksonville activists, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The SPLC released the third edition of its "Whose Heritage?" report on Tuesday. The project comes with an interactive map tracking Confederate memorials on public property in the country and chronicles the status of local movements to remove or rename symbols that are often considered painful vestiges of racial bigotry.
Kimberly Probolus, a researcher with the SPLC, says Florida has an easier time removing memorials than other formerly Confederate states because it doesn't have preservation laws — statutes that often punish or restrict the ability of municipalities to remove Confederate relics from public property.
The only two states that removed more Confederate memorials were Virginia and Texas.
"Florida actually removed seven Confederate memorials, and what's really exciting is six of those were actually from schools in Jacksonville," Probolus said.
The Duval County School Board voted last year to rename any school in the district bearing the name of a Confederate general or political leader by the start of the current 2021-2022 school year.
According to the report, over 70 memorials to the Confederacy remain in Florida. However, because of the project's national lens, it has some inaccurate figures and discrepancies compared to local information.
The SPLC still lists Confederate Park as a symbol to the confederacy in Jacksonville, despite it being renamed Springfield Park in 2020. Similarly, James Weldon Johnson Park, the city's centerpiece adjacent to City Hall and the main library, is still referred to as Hemming Park despite also being changed in 2020.
The report also excludes markers and symbols reported by Mayor Lenny Curry's office as part of its plan to remove Confederate memorials from city property.
Jacksonville continues to be engulfed in the debate over the fate of Confederate symbols.
The Jacksonville City Council controversially declined to vote on a resolution late last year that would have removed a monument to the Women of the Confederacy in Springfield Park.
As part of its one-year strategic plan, the council did commit to have a plan for dealing with Confederate symbols in place by June.