Dolph Briscoe Center for American History is a good choice for Jefferson Davis statue’s new location

Mary Dolan

“Davis must fall.” “Emancipate UT.”

These are a couple of the statements that have appeared on UT’s statue of Jefferson Davis over three different instances of vandalism since March. These instances, as well as decades of controversy and protest surrounding the statue, culminated in Student Government voting nearly unanimously to recommend the statue’s removal and President Gregory Fenves’ decision to assemble of a task force to examine Confederate statuary of UT’s campus.

On August 13, after the task force made their recommendation, Fenves announced that the statue would be relocated to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Unfortunately, the relocation was delayed when the Texas division of Sons of Confederate Veterans requested a temporary restraining order. However, relocating the Davis statue to the Briscoe Center is the best solution to a controversy that has plagued campus for decades.

A common argument that has been made against the statue’s removal is the argument that it is a form of censorship and an attempt to rewrite history. However, just because someone is a part of history does not mean that we must honor him or her, especially if they participated in shameful actions that we now condemn. Furthermore, Davis was involved in an important part of American history, but he had no ties to UT, which opened in 1883 — a mere six years before Davis’s death in 1889. It would make little sense for the University to continue to prominently display a statue of such a controversial figure, especially one that never attended or held any sort of teaching or administrative position at UT, or was a leader during Reconstruction, unlike men who are also featured in statuary on the Main Mall. Therefore, it makes far more sense for a statue of Davis to stand in a history museum than in a prominent place on campus.

The Briscoe Center is a much better space for the Jefferson Davis statue to be displayed. Some have thought that removing the statue could “destroy” or “erase” history; but by relocating the statue to the Briscoe center, UT is not destroying the statue or trying to cover it up. Instead, the Briscoe Center plans to use the statue as part of a Civil War exhibit, where visitors can learn about Davis’s life, ideas and actions in the larger scope of American history. By relocating the Davis statue to a history center, it is possible to put Jefferson Davis in a much more proper historical context and maximize opportunities to learn from past mistakes. In doing so, the University has made a decision that will both honor the wishes of the campus and preserve the statue’s legacy.

Barring any further difficulties with the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ temporary restraining order, it seems that we are nearing the end of the debate and controversy surrounding the statue the past several months. It would be impossible to satisfy all of the students and outside observers who have offered an opinion, but UT has made the wise decision to preserve the statue and move it to a more sensible location, preserving history and maximizing opportunities to learn from it in the appropriate context. Because of this, many future visitors will be able to see a piece of history finally put in its proper place.

Dolan is a journalism sophomore from Abilene. Follow her on Twitter @mimimdolan.