Bell County residents: Confederate monuments are more than innocent markers of American history. Many exist to celebrate the confederate cause to preserve the rights of whites over minorities. Most of the sites and symbols were actually created during periods of racial conflict long after the Civil War as not-so-subtle intimidation and reminders to courthouse visitors.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has conducted research to pinpoint the location of at least 1,503 of these monuments. They also paid attention to when these monuments were erected and placed them on a timeline. Our Confederate monument at the Bell County Courthouse in Belton falls at the tail-end of the most significant spike on the timeline (1916).
It also doesn’t help supporters of the confederacy that the Texas State Historical Association includes the following information about Bell County:
“Though racial violence was not as common in Bell County as it was in some areas of the state, there were at least two lynchings, in 1911 and 1915, and the Klan was revived in the county in the 1920s.” (https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcb06)
The Bell County Courthouse Confederate monument was erected in October 1916, right in the middle of this violent period, just five short months after the infamous “Waco Horror” in neighboring McLennan County (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching_of_Jesse_Washington). It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see that our Bell County Courthouse Confederate monument was erected to send a message of intimidation and fear to people of color during a time when lynchings were commonplace.
Even in the face of such evidence, I continue to be overwhelmed by the amount of residents who deny the lived experiences of people of color and legitimate state history. There are still a staggering number of northerners and southerners (48 percent according to a 2011 Pew Research Center study) who make the false claim that the Civil War was about states’ rights while the major consensus of historians point to slavery as its primary cause. If the information above isn’t enough to convince readers that it is time for local and statewide reform, and they refuse to believe the majority of historians, then I implore them to take a moment to read Texas’ actual Declaration of Causes (which impelled the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union): Feb. 2, 1861. The Lone Star State begins with slavery as the primary cause, and continues to mention it 20 more times! (https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ref/abouttx/secession/2feb1861.html)
The strong correlations are impossible to ignore, and the monument needs to be relocated to a more appropriate setting — one that is not connected to an institution where local citizens go to receive judgment.
If you would like to join this discussion and help bring about positive change in our local communities, please consider joining Bell County United for Reform (https://www.facebook.com/groups/506411993051093/)