Pro-Confederate activists at a rally in Florida over the weekend insisted that a mural of Ku Klux Klansmen in hooded robes should not be removed from the Baker County Courthouse because it was “not a racist thing.”
Following the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds, Jacksonville civil attorney John Phillips argued that the mural in the Baker County Courthouse was stirring up racial division.
The mural, which greets visitors as they enter the courthouse, features a small vignette with three hooded Klansmen riding horses. Although Eugene Barber, who painted the mural in 2001, has died, he left visitors a guidebook that offers a short explanation for the vignette:
When the group known as the “Radical Republicans” gained control of the state in 1868, the Reconstruction program took an unpleasant turn. … The reversed order was severely resented by a large segment of the white population. Lawlessness among ex-slaves and troublesome whites was the rule of the day. No relief was given by the carpetbag and scalawag government or by the Union troops. The result was the emergence of secret societies claiming to bring law and order to the county. One of these groups was the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that sometimes took vigilante justice to extremes but was sometimes the only control the county knew over those outside the law. The Klan faded from view at the end of Reconstruction. It had minor come-backs in the 1920’s and mid 1950’s. Since then it has become the subject of legend rather than a cause of fear.
Phillips said that other images also had dark meanings, including a bird that had been connected to white supremacists and the official flower of the Klan. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok, however, told The Florida Times-Union that all of the images did not support “the idea at all that the mural somehow glorifies white supremacy.”
As of Friday, almost 2,000 people had signed two petitions calling for the county to move the mural.
Supporters of the mural showed up with Confederate flags to a rally on Saturday, but organizers said that turnout was not as high as they had hoped.
Protesters insisted to WJXT that images depicted in the mural were part of their heritage.
“They got everything all wrong on that,” one man explained. “It’s not a racist thing.”
“I love it, I do,” he added. “It’s awesome.”
“I thought it was a bunch of malarkey,” another man said of the effort to remove the mural. “This means history, this is not nothing to do with slavery. It’s our heritage, and that’s the way it should be.”
“We all stick together. One for all and all for one.”
Watch the video below from WJXT, broadcast July 18, 2015.