False Confederate Capitol Plaque Removed – And It Only Took Six Decades!

Efforts by Democrat Rep. Johnson led the way

On Friday, Jan. 11, Texas officials made a long overdue – as in, “more than five decades” – step to rid the Capitol of an inaccurate and offensive vestige.

The State Preservation Board, which includes Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, unanimously voted to remove a “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque that falsely claims the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery,” during a hearing that lasted all of five minutes.

Photo by Jana Birchum

But hold back on your applause. The white, male, Republican leaders didn’t simply wake up one day on the right side of history; rather, black Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, has led the charge to get the plaque removed since 2017. “The plaque is at best a counterfactual propaganda proffered at the time of its installation nearly a century after the Civil War in order to discredit the growing civil rights movement in the United States,” Johnson previously wrote to the Board in his bid for removal. “As such, an appropriate home for the plaque would be in either in a museum or landfill, but certainly not the state Capitol.”

Opposition to the plaque, erected in 1959, arose only after Johnson’s outcry, and slowly. Former Speaker Joe Straus called for its removal in 2017; Gov. Abbott said the same during a gubernatorial debate a year later; and newly elected House speaker Dennis Bonnen publicly came on board in December. On Wednesday, Jan. 9, the Travis County Historical Commission added to that chorus, with a recommendation for removal to the state. The plaque officially exited the Capitol over the weekend. The Board is planning to meet on Jan. 25 to discuss its final destination.

Johnson tempered his enthusiasm for the vote, saying that while he’s glad the Board voted to remove the plaque from the Texas Capitol, it “should never have been put up by the Legislature in the first place, and it certainly shouldn’t have taken 60 years to remove it.” Johnson said, “None of us in state government should be high-fiving each other or patting ourselves on the back today.”

Before and after: State Rep. Eric Johnson with the plaque in question, and the wall post-plaque removal (photos courtesy of Eric Johnson's office)

Before the vote becomes a self-congratulatory moment for the GOP, advocates and citizens should remember the plaque is just one of nearly two dozen other Confederate memorials in and around the Capitol, none of which are being discussed for removal, and may want to push their elected leaders to consider doing the same thing to those archaic and white-supremacy-tinged relics.

“Now it’s important also to look at the many other monuments and memorials across Texas and ensure that they don’t glorify the Confederacy and those who fought to defend the evil institution of slavery,” said Texas Freedom Network Political Director Carisa Lopez. “We can best honor our past by telling the truth about it and using that truth to help heal the divisions that still challenge us today.”

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Mary Tuma
"Rosie's Law" Takes Bold Stand for Choice, Women's Health
Sheryl Cole's bill would cover abortion care for Medicaid enrollees

Feb. 15, 2019

Lege Lines: Full-Day Pre-K Tops School Wish List
Lege Lines: Full-Day Pre-K Tops School Wish List
Bipartisan support emerges for plan to fund full-day pre-kindergarten

Feb. 15, 2019


Children of the Confederacy plaque, Eric Johnson, 86th Texas Legislature, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Dennis Bonnen

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle