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The Debate On Confederate Symbols, From The Perspective Of A Confederate Daughter

The recent debates in Dallas, Denton and Fort Worth over Confederate monuments and places named for Confederate figures puts Cindy Harriman in a unique position. She’s the executive director of the Texas Civil War Museum – and a lifelong member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

“We try to take the emotion out of it,” Harriman said. “If you leave here, you’re going to have an emotion one way or another, but we don’t want to tell you what that emotion should be.”  

Interview Highlights

On the Robert E. Lee statue that was recently removed in Dallas

“That is a beautiful sculpture. Since we don’t have a lot of monuments at this museum, I didn’t know my monument history quite like I should. So I’ve been really going into primary records and sources trying to learn about it.

"I cannot find anywhere where the monuments that the United Daughters of the Confederacy put up were for a racist or white supremacy agenda. They had 20 percent of their male population wiped out during the war; they’re buried in unknown graves all over the United States. And [the Daughters] put the monuments up as a memorial and a remembrance. The Robert E. Lee statue [in Dallas] was not [put up by] the United Daughters of the Confederacy, so I don’t have access to the primary sources or reasoning.”

Credit Texas Civil War Museum
The Texas Civil War Museum is located in Fort Worth - and White Settlement. The property lies between the two zip codes.

On whether Confederate symbols and monuments celebrate a racist society:

"We have a couple of African-American volunteers here at the museum, and I’ve really relied on them heavily to tell me. One of them who grew up here said that in the newspapers of the day, that that was not a component that her family knew of as far as the racist things, and she’s been looking for that to help us balance this.

Credit The Texas Civil War Museum
This flag is on display in the museum.

"I don’t think at the time when the veterans were taking their dying breath that those were put up for any reason other than as a memorial. But the Confederate flag obviously in the 20th century took on a different personality than what it was originally, which was a battle flag and that was it. We don’t fly that flag in front of the museum because it would give an unwelcoming viewpoint to visitors, and we don’t want anyone to ever feel unwelcomed, but we think it’s appropriate to have it on display in order to teach people."

On whether she supports removal of Confederate monuments and renaming places named after Confederate figures:

"I think [schools] can do what’s best for the community that they’re serving. For parks, it’s a case-by-case basis. We propose that everything stay like it is just because that’s what museums do, we like the history out there, we collect it, we want to see it preserved. But if you find something that doesn’t sit well today, each city has the ability to garner its community and see where it’s best going.”

Cindy Harriman is the executive director of the Texas Civil War Museum, located in White Settlement. 

For more photos from the Texas Civil War Museum, click the slideshow at the top of the page.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.