The College of William and Mary is seeing backlash today after announcing that certain items bearing the Confederate flag will be removed from display. The items aren’t being eliminated entirely, nor is the college removing all references to the Confederate armies — though they’re being accused of “rewriting history,” the college will continue to display items that represent the Civil War, including items that depict the flag — only a few specific items will be leaving their current positions.
13 News Now lists the items being moved as a single plaque and ceremonial mace. The plaque lists faculty and students who left the college to fight for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and bears a Confederate flag at the top. It has been moved to Swem Library, to join a collection of other historical artifacts. The mace will still be used for certain ceremonies, but with a small change.
According to the Virginia Gazette, the plaque will be replaced with another, that shares accounts not only of William and Mary students and faculty who joined the Confederate armies, but of those who fought for the Union, as well.
A message was reportedly sent to William and May alumni on Friday, explaining the changes. One Reddit user shared the full message here.
In it, William and Mary President Taylor Reveley explains the plans regarding the items, noting that the mace includes a Confederate flag, which will be removed and replaced with another emblem. Reveley assures that there is no intent to erase the history of the Civil War, but that the faculty wants the college to be a place that is welcoming and comfortable to all students.
“We do not seek to put William & Mary’s part in the Civil War out of sight or mind. The College barely survived the physical, financial and human carnage of that conflict. Nor do we seek to avoid examining and learning from William & Mary’s role in slavery, secession and segregation.
I have taken these steps in consultation with our Board of Visitors. In my judgment, they will allow William & Mary to move forward together without ignoring our past.”
Some displeasure with the decision has been expressed on social media.
Confederate flags have been coming down on government property across the nation since Dylann Roof’s arrest for racially motivated murders in Charleston, South Carolina, and the subsequent discovery of his particular attachment to the flag, and to white supremacist groups.