Why are there so many Confederate Statues in the United States? The Confederate States LOST the Civil War so why are there so many statues to people who tried to break up the country and lost?

I've heard today that there are about 1500 statues around the country. They seem to have been put up long after the war and many (more strangely) in places that weren't part of the Confederate States.

Where did all these statues of people who tried to destroy the United States or America but LOST come from? It seems strange to idolize the losing side so much. I can't think of another instance where the losing side is so revered.

  • 5
    While the question of removal of statues is a current political matter, the installation of them is historical.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 23:02
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    @JamesK were the decisions to erect these statues really completely apolitical? Were they erected, overwhelmingly in the 20th century it seems, with the thinking "we're putting these up purely for future historical reference and we make no statements of sentiment by choosing these particular individuals to memorialize"? See i.sstatic.net/fanJV.jpg from the source linked in this answer.
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 7:11
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    The installation of the statues was a highly political act, when they were erected, which is my point: Not the installation was apolitical, but it was in the past, that's what I mean by "historical". There's a degree of overlap, but this question might be better on history.se.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 8:32
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    @JamesK Questions can be on-topic on multiple sites. Politics.SE doesn't require questions to be about current politics, it even has a history tag. The question is phrased quite subjectively, but seems to be on-topic to me.
    – tim
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 11:18
  • 1
    It was political matters that led to the statues being built. Recommend reopening as quite on topic.
    – J Doe
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 17:55

2 Answers 2


A more fruitful question, perhaps is "when" those monuments were erected, which the chart below illustrates, which provides some good inferences about "why" they were erected.

Basically, they were symbols of the reassertion of extralegal white supremacist power over blacks in the South, following the enactment of Jim Crow laws, and then a symbol of resistance to Civil Rights laws striking down the Jim Crow regime a number of decades later.

enter image description here

As William Faulkner wrote in "Requiem For A Nun":

The past is never dead. It's not even past.

Even though the South lost the war, the Union was not entirely victorious in its efforts to win over the hearts and minds of white Southerners. In the Reconstruction following the Civil War, later Union leaders like Andrew Johnson (Abraham Lincoln's successor), made only half-hearted efforts to really deeply assimilate the formerly Confederate states into the Union and when Reconstruction ended Confederate and white supremacist sympathies remained strong.

For example, the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest religious denomination in the American South) only disavowed racism, segregation and slavery in 1995.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 20:21
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    Using the Southern Poverty Law Center as a source tends to discredit your answer. I would suggest finding a difference source. Also, the spike around 1900 occurs about 40 years after the Civil war. This would be around the time that many of the southern veterans were facing death or their families were dealing with losing them. This would explain the spike in monuments. Your answer seems biased due to both the source of material and that it ignores that there may be multiple reasons that the statues were created.
    – Readin
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 4:26
  • @yannis could a variation of this question be a good fit for this site? history.stackexchange.com/questions/59814/…
    – ESamual
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 1:08
  • FiveThirtyEight wrote an article examining this, too. Their data source is still the SPLC data, but they approach it from their own, analytical, viewpoint.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 12:41
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    @Readin: Another plausible explanation for the lack of monuments before c. 1900 is that the South was simply too broke to pay for them.
    – dan04
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 18:29

To complement to ohwilleke answer:

The original SPLC report for the data in ohwilleke's answer is available online and lists its methodology as well as all monuments and streets/schools that were considered.

Their graphic shows the same tendency of monuments being built in a time of racial struggles:

enter image description here

The Washington Post notes that many of these monuments where not politically neutral monuments at the time they were created; instead, the neo-confederate and white supremacist group United Daughters of the Confederacy pushed for them:

The group responsible for the majority of these memorials was the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), among the most influential white women’s organizations in the South in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Washington Post also puts this in a historical context:

The 1890s, when the UDC was founded and monument building began in earnest, was a decade of virulent racism across the South. Not content to disenfranchise black men, Southern whites went on a lynching spree. [...]

Amid that brutality, the pace of Confederate monument construction quickened. The UDC and other like-minded heritage organizations were intent on honoring the Confederate generation and establishing a revisionist history of what they called the War Between the States. According to this Lost Cause mythology, the South went to war to defend states’ rights, slavery was essentially a benevolent institution that imparted Christianity to African “savages,”[...]. The Daughters regarded the Ku Klux Klan [...] as a heroic organization, necessary to return order to the South. Order, of course, meant the use of violence to subdue newly freed blacks.

During the era of Jim Crow, Confederate monuments could be placed most anywhere. Some were in cemeteries or parks, but far more were erected on the grounds of local and state courthouses. These monuments, then, not only represented reverence for soldiers who fought in a war to defend slavery, they also made a very pointed statement about the rule of white supremacy: All who enter the courthouse are subject to the laws of white men.

The Business Insider interviewed various historians who agree that the statues were an attempt at historical revisionism:

Soon enough, however, "... public monuments became a central means of rewriting history from the Confederate perspective [...]

Whittenburg said the monuments tend to come from attempts by the political and business elite to "re-enforce or reinvigorate their claim to authority."


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