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Charlottesville violence prompts examination of local Confederate monuments

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(Shelbey Roberts/WTGS FOX 28)

If you've ever taken a stroll through Forsyth Park, you've probably seen a Confederate Monument with a soldier atop standing at ease and facing north.

Stan Deaton, the senior historian of the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah, says the monument was erected in 1879 and is a "romanticized view of the old south and the confederacy."

It was an effort made possible by the Confederate Memorial Ladies Association in Savannah.

"These were a way for the people who as they saw it suffered through the Civil War, suffered this loss as a way to explain to future generations sort of their version of what they had been through," he stated.

The Confederate monument, although prominently displayed, is tucked away in the center of Forsyth Park.

"It's not quite as in your face, let's say, as some the statues that we see in other places, like Robert E. Lee on horseback or Stone Wall Jackson on horseback," Deaton said. "Those are really not funereal or mourning loss at all. That's really a celebration of a figure."

The Georgia Historical Society says it does not have an official position on its monuments. But, Deaton says the organization does advocate for good history, even if it includes a dark past.

"There's a racial aspect to the Civil War and to the Confederacy that's missing in so many of these monuments," said Deaton.

He says some have made efforts to whitewash the origins of the Confederacy.

"You will hear people say it didn't have anything to do with slavery, when in fact it had everything to do with the preservation of slavery where it already existed and, if possible, the argument over extending slavery into American territories," said Deaton.

The debate continues about Confederate monuments nationwide. But, Deaton says it should be up to communities to decide what they want to do with the pieces.

"I don't think there's any easy answers here, but it's one, I think, we as a nation are really having to grapple with right now," he said.

The City of Savannah and Mayor Eddie DeLoach say they are aware of the contentious issues with Confederate monuments in other communities.

They say only the governor and state legislators have the ability to remove military service monuments. The city and mayor released the following statement:

"The City of Savannah has long been a champion of the civil rights movement and the preservation of history ... The City of Savannah maintains the Confederate Monument in Forsyth Park which pays tribute Confederate soldiers ..."