This has been a long, hot summer, especially when everyone is having to face all of the problems that have developed because of COVID-19. It has been a sad time, a frightening time and a time in which we must simply rely on our basic instincts when we are making decisions. It has also been a phase that has shown how much we humans are capable of; how innovative we are, how strong we are and just how sturdy we can be.
During this time, there have been other problems that have appeared almost weekly, if not daily. One thing that has been discussed are two of the monuments on the Bastrop County Courthouse lawn. There have been many opinions about these Civil War symbols. In July, I spoke about the obelisk and the headstone memorial, located at the courthouse, in Commissioner’s Court. I am sure many have not seen my comments. For those who have not heard or read my statement, it is below. It is my hope that through work and understanding that the problems of the moment, COVID-19, education, jobs, isolation, monuments, finance, etc. will all be solved and that Bastrop County will continue to prosper and remain the good county that we all call home.
As I stated in the last Commissioner’s Court on July 13th, I have thought a lot about this subject of moving the Confederate Monuments. I realize that whatever decision I make, there will be people who are unhappy and angry with me and will want to make this political. I assure you that my decision is not political. My decision is from the heart.
First of all, my hope and wish is that this vote will be put before the people of Bastrop County and to let them decide. I know this is not possible for the November ballot and I don’t know if it is possible at all.
Secondly, all of us in this room and in this county of Bastrop should consider and try to understand both sides of this issue. Both opinions deserve respect. Put yourself in others’ shoes. How would you feel about the monument if your ancestors were slaves? We all know how brutal and horrible slavery was. How would you feel if your ancestors were one of the soldiers being honored with this monument? We all know that any war is also brutal and horrible, but we also know that soldiers and family deserve respect too. We face these kinds of decisions, although not to this extreme, frequently in our daily lives. We must always seek to understand and to try and do the right thing.
These monuments have been at the Courthouse for over 100 years. I admired them for their beauty and for their representation of our history. When I looked at them, I did not think of slavery or any ulterior motives that the Daughters of the Confederacy might have had. That was how I perceived them. That is not how many see them. We all have different perceptions of many things. Our personal truth comes from our perceptions.
Now, I look at these monuments with the knowledge that they do divide us and they do not represent “Justice for all.” There are many who say that it is an “educational tool” to teach our children so that history is not repeated or that it would be erasing history. I helped establish the Elgin Depot Museum which opened in 2002. I was president for 12 years. It is Elgin’s first and only museum. I have been a member of the Elgin Historical Association since 1990, one year after it was formed. Our first exhibit, which was my favorite, was “The African American Churches of Elgin.” We invited, begged, encouraged, publicized for people, of all races and nationalities, to come to our opening event— which incidentally was exceptional. We maybe had 30 people attend. I can’t tell you how many people I have asked if they had ever visited our wonderful museum and who have said, “no.” Now, the museum is in dire straits due to lack of membership and community involvement. It makes me wonder how many people truly care about history or preserving history—that is not a judgment, just an observation.
I am not an elected official. I am appointed to fill two years of my late husband’s, Bubba Snowden, term of office for which he had just been re-elected. When I am considering my decision, I also consider what he would do. In 2012, he spent countless hours and days, cleaning, restoring, hauling off debris and burning debris at the Westbrook Cemetery, a black cemetery in Elgin, using his own resources. Bishop Mays joined in to help him and will attest to the amount of work Bubba put into this project which he originated. At his funeral, the NAACP saw fit to read a resolution honoring Bubba. I could name many more examples. As a teacher, I saw no racial difference in my classroom or with the teachers I worked with.
Bubba and I are not perfect people. All I am saying is that Bubba would absolutely say move the monuments to a place where they are still cared for and respected—a place of honor. His grandfather was in World War I. Bubba served in the Army National Guard Airborne Unit, and one of his favorite TV channels was the History Channel, but he would agree that the monuments should be relocated in order to compromise and resolve this situation.
I was definitely impressed with our Special Session at the Performing Arts Center a few weeks ago. I wish more people would have attended and voiced their opinion. It was an event in which Bastrop County could be proud. I admire the way we have been able to discuss this concern in a lawful and civil manner. When you look at the things going on around the nation, Bastrop County has set an example of how things can be resolved in a peaceful way. Thank you to all who made this possible.
Again, my hope is that the citizens of Bastrop County would be able to vote on this matter instead of five people making this decision. If that is not possible, my decision is that the Confederate Monuments be moved to a respectful, safe location where they will be available to be viewed by the public. I also request that taxpayer funds not be used to facilitate this move, that donations be used to cover this expense. I do not support the removal, tearing down or destruction of any other monument or statue that represents the history of our beloved United States of America.
Hopefully this will turn our attention to the future and we can focus on going forward, press on through our disappointments, and encourage each other by showing kindness to all.
Donna Snowden, Bastrop County Precinct 4 Commissioner