The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly voted to block a move to restore a controversial monument that had been removed from Arlington National Cemetery. The statue, which Republicans argued symbolized reconciliation after the Civil War, has been criticized for glorifying Confederate themes and portraying negative stereotypes of Black Americans from the era.

Vote to bring back "Reconciliation Monument" narrowly defeated

A proposal by Georgia Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde to restore the Reconciliation Monument, also known as the Arlington Confederate Memorial, failed on a 192-230 vote. The proposal had been supported by the vast majority of House Republicans, including Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, who faced controversy recently for seeming to praise the Jim Crow era as beneficial for Black Americans.  All Democrats and over 20 Republicans voted against the Confederate Memorial measure, defeating the proposal. The statue, which was removed in December 2023, originally debuted in 1914. Depicting a number of figures, including Confederate soldiers and Black individuals, the monument is said to symbolize the reconciliation of the North and South following the American Civil War.

Negative depictions of Black people and whitewashing of American history

However, the memorial was controversial for how it depicted Black people and the war. Most notably, critics pointed out the depiction of a Black “Mammy” figure holding the baby of a white Confederate officer. The monument also appears to show an enslaved Black man following his enslaver to the war. And the monument’s Latin inscription — which translates as “The victorious cause was pleasing to the gods, but the lost cause to Cato” — is a reference to the “lost cause” ideology that seeks to whitewash the Confederacy and the Civil War as noble endeavors that were not about upholding slavery. Based on these features of the monument, an independent commission recommended it be removed.

Efforts to bring back Confederate symbols

In opposing the restoration of the Confederate monument to Arlington, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., called out his Republican colleagues. What Confederate tradition are you upholding?” Jeffries asked in a press conference on Friday, per The Hill. “Is it slavery? Rape? Kidnap? Jim Crow? Lynching? Racial oppression? Or all of the above?” The removal of the Reconciliation Monument and other Confederate military symbols was part of a larger movement to get rid of such memorials in the years after George Floyd’s 2020 murder. Recently, however, there have been attempts to reverse this wave. Most notably, a school board in Virginia recently voted to restore the Confederate names of two schools in its district, prompting a lawsuit by the Virginia NAACP to block the restoration.

The push to return the Reconciliation Monument to Arlington National Cemetery was not the first attempt to bring back a disregarded Confederate symbol, and it likely will not be the last effort to do so. While the proposal to restore the Confederate monument to Arlington has failed, the close vote and the developments elsewhere in Virginia show that there remains strong support for upholding the idea of the Confederacy in public institutions.