Bayou City

Speaker Joe Straus Calls for Removal of Confederate Plaque on Capitol Grounds

The Texas State Capitol Grounds, where a Confederate monument of Robert E. Lee reigns supreme.
The Texas State Capitol Grounds, where a Confederate monument of Robert E. Lee reigns supreme. Photo by Matt Squirrell/Flickr
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, among the state's foremost Republicans, has become the latest official to join a chorus of grievances against Confederate iconography in public spaces.

On Tuesday, Straus submitted a letter to the Texas State Preservation Board asking that it take down the "Children of the Confederacy Creed" plaque on the first floor of the State Capitol because it is neither "accurate or appropriate," Straus wrote on Facebook.

"Confederate monuments and plaques are understandably important to many Texans. But it is important that the historical information displayed on the Capitol grounds is accurate and appropriate," he wrote. "The Children of the Confederacy Creed plaque does not meet this standard. The plaque says that the Civil War was not an act of rebellion and was not primarily about slavery. This is not accurate, and Texans are not well-served by incorrect information about our history."

Straus, who himself is a member of the State Preservation Board, asked that fellow members begin identifying the steps necessary to "remove the plaque as soon as practicable." His letter comes weeks after a man identified as a supposed white supremacist is accused of purposely driving his car into a crowd of people protesting racism and white supremacy, killing one woman, after white supremacists and other racist groups stormed Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Calls for the removal of other Confederate statues have rang out across the nation as a result, prompting one of the most poignant dialogues to date about why it is that we decide to honor Confederate leaders who fought for the institution of slavery — or, as many here in the South like to remember it, the right of states to have slavery.

The Children of the Confederacy plaque is among a dozen other Confederate monuments or other such plaques on the Capitol grounds alone. The memorials include a statue of Robert E. Lee surrounded by other Confederate soldiers, and a bronze statue of another Confederate soldier whose statue is bolstered by a pillar with the Confederate flag on it. The "Children of the Confederacy Creed," erected in 1959, reads in full:

"Because we desire to perpetuate, in love and honor, the heroic deeds of those who enlisted in the Confederate army, and upheld its flag through four years of war, we, the Children of the South, have united in an organization called "Children of the Confederacy," in which our strength, enthusiasm, and love of justice can exert its influence. We therefore pledge ourselves to preserve pure ideals: To honor our veterans; to study and teach the truths of history (one of the most important of which is that the war between the states was not a rebellion nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery), and to always act in a manner that will reflect honor upon our noble and patriotic ancestors."
Just for old time's sake, let's review the Texas Declaration of Causes for secession, shall we?

"We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.
"We have an obligation to all the people we serve to ensure that our history is described correctly, especially when it comes to a subject as painful as slavery," Straus wrote.
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn