This is a monument in York County, South Carolina, to memorialize the “Faithful Slaves” of the the Civil War.
Faithful Slaves Memorial, York County, South Carolina; from The Historical Marker Database
The monument reads in part:
Dedicated to the faithful slaves who loyal to a sacred trust toiled for the support of the army with matchless devotion and sterling fidelity guarded our defenceless homes, women and children during the struggle for the principles of our Confederate States of America.
Full details of the monument are here. The comments at the link say that the thirteen-foot marble monument “is a tribute to the faithfulness of the Southern negro to the women and children of the South during the war… (and) probably the only one of its kind in the South.”
The folks who built this monument may well have been heartfelt in their motivations. But looking at it from my own vantage point, I find the thing disturbing and perverse.
I am going to describe the memorial with a metaphor that some might find objectionable… don’t say I didn’t warn you. To me, this memorial is akin to a rapist thanking a rape victim for being quiet during the act, thereby not alerting others to what was happening.
In both cases, thanks are being given for an action that benefits the victimizer, but does nothing to help the victim.
I can see why these folks would feel gratitude toward the slaves that are honored by this monument. In 1860, there were over three and a half million slaves in the South. But by the end of the Civil War, some estimates say that over 500,000 slaves fled their masters to go to contraband camps, head North, or otherwise seek freedom. Many males slaves joined the Union army or served the army in support roles. Meanwhile, many of the slaves who didn’t flee aided and abetted the Union effort by serving as spies, guides, or providing other support.
So, any slave who stayed with and supported their masters and masters’ families was undoubtedly seen as a blessing.
The thing is, this memorial is all about what the slaves did for their masters. I think it’s fair to ask, what did the slaves receive in return? Did they receive their freedom? Did they receive land or property, or reimbursement at a fair wage for their labors? Did they receive any political rights? The answer to these questions appears to be no.
Ultimately, I find this memorial to be self-serving and hollow.
I’m sure that the monument’s builders believed they were doing a good thing. But thanking a slave for being a good slave… that doesn’t resonate with me at all. If I was a slave, my reaction would be “thanks massa… thanks for nothing.”
Now, here’s a memorial I’d like to see. It features a huge statue, with a group of white men on one side, and a group of slaves on the other. The white men include Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy), Alexander Stephens, (Vice-President of the Confederacy) or John C. Calhoun (a leading proponent of slavery and secession prior to the Civil War). Their mouths are open, their faces etched with a mournful apology. On the other side, the slaves have a blank but measuring stare, as if they are trying to make sense of words that they never expected to hear.
On the base of the monument, there are two words: “We’re Sorry.”
Are there any such monuments in the South, or anywhere in this country? There should be.
(Hat tip to cwmemory.com )
8 thoughts on “Faithful Slaves Monument: Thanks, But No Thanks”
I think that our search is futile for any existing memorial to the antebellum south, to the Confederacy, that even mentions the evil of slavery.
There’s a real opportunity though, to start a movement to apply a smallish bronze plaque to every Confederate memorial in the south, a plaque that would at least mention that the reason for secession, the cause of the Civil War, the true spirit of the Confederacy, the real soul of the antebellum south, was the evil of slavery.
Can we start such a movement?
the south had far more salves than anywhere else but the 1st one should be in washington because there were slaves there also // thats were it needs to start put in up at Arlington and then others should follow
The main problem I have with all of this whole anti-Black salvery issue is that they call the south the Bible Belt how dare anyone call them selves a Christian if they Hate a person of any race or any reason My Lord told me to Love my enemies, how may I love Jesus if I hate my brother…….I dare you to take the Jesus challenge ove God with all you have and then Love everyone as you Love yourselve then lets tear down this hate wall and live in peace
[…] have read widely on the depiction of African Americans before, during, and after the Civil War. The “faithful slave” is an all-too-familiar trope—cheerful, loyal, childlike, and non-threatening—and one that […]
We have one of these slave monuments in storage in Louisiana
Can you please tell me about the slave monument in storage in Louisiana. Where is it located? There’s one in my home town of Columbia, NC.
Thank you for writing this piece. I moved to Fort Mill from CA and recent national events made me wonder what confederate monuments exist here and what their history is. Not sure of my next step, but wish your thoughts could be published in our local paper. A conversation- and much more -needs to be started!