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UT Will Relocate Jefferson Davis Statue

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson
Texas Tribune
Jefferson Davis statue on UT campus in Austin.

Just days after an advisory panel recommended the University of Texas at Austin relocate some or all of its statues of Confederate leaders, UT-Austin President Gregory Fenves announced that the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis will soon have a new home.

UT is relocating the Davis statue to an exhibit in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Four other statues the panel considered relocating — including ones of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston —  will remain on the university’s South Mall, but Fenves will consider adding explanatory plaques to place them in historical context.

“While every historical figure leaves a mixed legacy, I believe Jefferson Davis is in a separate category,” Fenves wrote in a letter to the UT-Austin community, “and that it is not in the university’s best interest to continue commemorating him. Davis had few ties to Texas; he played a unique role in the history of the American South that is best explained and understood through an educational exhibit.”

The statue of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson will also be relocated to another outdoor location, but for symmetrical reasons: He stands opposite Davis on South Mall.

In June, Fenves assembled a 12-member panel of students, professors and alumni to assess the appropriateness of the statues. The panel solicited more than 3,100 opinions from the public and released its recommendations Monday. Its report presented five options, four of which involved moving some or all of the statues to a history center on campus. Another option would have left the statues in place but called for explanatory plaques.

The Davis statue has been the most controversial of the ones commemorating Confederate leaders. In March, the student assembly passed a resolution asking UT to remove the statue of Davis. In April, it was vandalized with the phrase “Davis Must Fall.” A week after June's deadly shooting at a black church in South Carolina, the statues of Davis, Lee and Johnston were tagged with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

"Statues have layers of meaning: aesthetic, historical, aspirational and educational. History is not innocent; it is the living foundation for the present," the report said. "The university’s approach to changing and replacing monuments on campus should be conservative but not uncritical."

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/08/13/ut-will-remove-jefferson-davis-statue/.