City relocates Confederate statue to Alabama museum

Published 9:51 am Monday, June 15, 2020

A Confederate statue removed from Alabama’s port city earlier this month has been relocated to a museum, the city’s mayor said.

The History Museum of Mobile has received the bronze likeness of Admiral Raphael Semmes, which stood in a middle of a downtown street near the Mobile waterfront for 120 years until June 5, and “will develop a plan to protect, preserve and display within the museum” the statue and “place it into the appropriate historic context,” the city’s Mayor Sandy Stimpson said Sunday in a statement.

“I have no doubt that moving the statue from public display was the right thing to do for our community going forward. The values represented by this monument a century ago are not the values of Mobile in 2020,” Stimpson said in a statement.

Attorney General Steve Marshall had sent a June 5 letter to the mayor after the statue’s removal saying the city could be subject to a $25,000 fine for permanently moving the statue, an action that would violate a state law protecting monuments over 40 years old.

Marshall’s office did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.

Marshall’s office has threatened legal action against the city of Birmingham, about 257 miles (414 kilometers) north of Mobile, for removing a confederate monument. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has said the potential $25,000 fine was worth the removal of the statue that had caused unrest in the majority-black city.

Stimpson said he believes “this action to be consistent” with the state law, and vowed to work with the attorney general’s office if they determine otherwise.

“Over 300 years, there are chapters of darkness and light that weave together to form the Mobile story. The most important chapter is the one we write next,” Stimpson said in a statement.

Semmes was a Confederate commerce raider, sinking Union-allied ships during the Civil War. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, he was jailed on treason charges in New York City before returning to the South after the war, and was later prohibited by U.S. authorities from taking office as an elected judge in Mobile.

He devoted his later years to writing his memoirs and became a “Lost Cause” hero to Southerners who lamented the end of the Confederacy. The statue was dedicated in 1900, the year before Alabama ratified a Constitution that established white supremacy in the state by essentially disenfranchising blacks and poor whites.