With opposition brewing over a proposal to relocate a Florida Confederate statue from the nation’s capital to a museum in Lake County, a Democratic state legislator is suggesting an alternative site.
The statue is of Edmund Kirby Smith, a Confederate general whose likeness had been at the U.S. Capitol representing Florida for nearly a century. But after national opposition formed against Confederate memorials in 2015, the Legislature voted to authorize a search for a different notable Floridian to replace Smith’s statue. A citizen’s panel chose Florida educator Mary McLeod Bethune to represent the state in the National Statuary Hall. She will be the first African-American represented in the national collection.
As for the Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith’s statue, it’s slated to go to the Lake County Historical Museum after votes by a state committee and the local county commission – even though the town where the museum sits, Tavares, voted against it.
The move is sparking growing protest.
Orange County Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson attended a rally on Saturday in front of the Lake County Historical Museum, where approximately 400 people gathered to speak out against placing the statue there next year. Thompson notes that nine of the 14 cities in Lake County have passed resolutions opposing relocating the Confederate statue to their county.
Thompson sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, proposing a new home for the Confederate statue: the historic Olustee Battlefield in the Osceola National Forest.
“The Olustee Battlefield, the site of the only major Civil War battle fought in Florida, is a location that allows appropriate education about our history and places in context what some view as symbols of hatred and division,” Thompson said Wednesday in a written statement.
According to the Florida state parks website, more than 10,000 cavalry, infantry and artillery troops fought a five-hour battle in a pine forest near Olustee. The battle ended with 2,807 casualties and the retreat of the Union troops to Jacksonville until the war’s end 14 months later.
In Lake County, officials recently announced that they will build a monument-style plaque for the Groveland Four, four black men who were falsely accused of raping a 17-year-old white woman in Lake County 70 years ago. Gov. DeSantis pardoned the four men earlier this year.
When it’s finished, the monument will sit in front of the Lake County Historical Museum, the same museum that is slated to host the statue of General Smith.