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Dialogue Continues On Confederate Memorials And Marker

Josh James

Last week, the Urban County Art Review Board heard opinions from a slate of local experts on the placement and presentation of two Confederate memorials along with a historical marker in downtown Lexington. This week, it was the public’s turn.

Monday night’s discussion brought out passions on all sides as residents wrestled with questions of honor, history, and how best to tell Lexington’s conflicted past through public art – giving testimonies that were, by turns, forceful and heartfelt.

Speaker John Williams repeatedly admonished the board to consider the "untold horrors" that occurred on the grounds of Cheapside Park, once the focal point of the antebellum slave trade in the region, calling the men depicted nearby, Confederate Generals John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge, "treasonous."

Others foresaw a slippery slope should the city subtract the monuments from the Old Fayette County Courthouse Square. "What is next? Should Gratz Park be renamed? Should Ashland be closed off? All of those places have troubling histories too," speaker Alan Cornett noted. "The key is to learn from our history, not try to cover it up."

Most urged the board to balance its consideration of the statues' historical value with the need to better illustrate Lexington’s aspirations as a diverse and inclusive community – no small task given the many perspectives on offer. Monday's crowd of roughly 50 people included great-great-grandchildren of slaves and Confederate fighters.

Given that complexity, Stuart Horodner asked the board to pump the brakes on the process by scheduling more public meetings.

"These kinds of conversations are long. They're complicated. They should be long and complicated," he said. "We've heard the phrase over most of our lives that timing is everything and location, location, location."

For now the board is scheduled to hash out its recommendations on Nov. 4, which will be presented to the Urban County Council.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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