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Dallas Isn’t Done Dealing With Its Confederate Monuments

Months after the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, City Council is set this week to again pick up the debate over what to do with Dallas' remaining Confederate monuments.
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After months of heated debate that culminated with the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Oak Lawn last year, the city seemingly pumped the brakes on plans to immediately address Dallas’ other Confederate monuments, including a memorial downtown and street names throughout the city.

That debate is set to pick up where it left off this week, as the City Council on Wednesday will be briefed on city staff’s recommendations of what to do with public reminders of the Confederacy. These recommendations, put together by members of the city’s office of cultural affairs, as well as the parks and recreation and sustainable development departments, diverge in some ways from the suggestions of a task force formed last year to address the same questions. Any decision will ultimately lie with the City Council.

City staff and the task force agree on what should be the fate of the Lee statue, presently stowed away at a Naval Air Station in Grand Prairie: Loan Lee to the Texas Civil War Museum in White Settlement, displaying the general with historical context. Relocating the statue to the museum would cost an estimated $75,000, with another $125,000 toward removing the granite base and surrounding steps that held the statue in the Oak Lawn park that formerly bore Lee’s name. City staff did, however, tell the Dallas Morning News that the museum and private donors may help pay for moving costs. Plan B is to sell the statue “via a fine art auction house.” Its appraised value, if you’re wondering, the city puts at $950,000.

The biggest split here is on what to do with the Confederate memorial downtown. The task force recommended its removal. City staff would see it stay, but with new signs that give it historical context. This is partly recommended to save money ($25,000 for signage vs. more than $400,000 for removal), and partly because of the difficulties in removing the work without destroying it.

The recommendations are in sync on Fair Park. Add context to the art there, and commemorate the “Hall of Negro Life,” a building and exhibition hall featured at the Texas Centennial Exposition of 1936 and later razed. City staff put the price tag for this between $50,000 and $200,000.

As for the street names, city staff is on board with changing the name of Lee Parkway, named as it is for a Confederate general with no ties to Dallas. Richard Montgomery Gano and William Lewis Cabell were also Confederate soldiers, but each man later made notable civic contributions to Dallas—the briefing recommends leaving Gano Street and Cabell Drive alone.

Along with some other odds and ends, there’s at least one recommendation for a new memorial: A Texas Historical Marker downtown at the site where, in 1910, a black man named Allen Brooks was hanged by a mob in an act of “racial terror.”

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