‘Mammy’ monument won approval, then met resistance

“Charles Stedman, a North Carolina Congressman… in January 1923 introduced a Mammy monument bill on behalf of the Jefferson Davis Chapter of the UDC.

” ‘They desired no change in their condition of life,’ Stedman said of the faithful slaves who would be honored. ‘The very few who are left look back at those days as the happy golden hours of their lives.’

“Stedman added that the bill ‘should find a responsive echo in the hearts of the citizens of this great Republic.’ It did, at least in the Senate, which voted for a land grant in the capital, so the UDC could erect the monument as ‘a gift to the people of the United States.’ The next day’s Washington Post printed only a two-paragraph item, noting that the Senate had approved three monuments: to baseball, to a ‘former District commissioner,’ and to ‘faithful colored mammies’…

“But the monument bill had to pass a House committee before it could be enacted…. Petitions and letters poured into the offices of politicians and newspaper, including one presented by 2,000 black women…. The women’s auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic condemned the monument as a ‘sickly sentimental proposition,’ and suggested the money would be better spent on ‘bettering conditions of the mammy’s children.’

“Congress adjourned without taking any further action…. And the Mammy statue quietly joined the ranks of monuments in the capital that were never built, including a towering ‘Mother’s Memorial’ and a plan for the Washington Monument that depicted the first president in a carriage atop 30 columns.”

— From “The Mammy Washington Almost Had” by Tony Horwitz in The Atlantic (May 31)

When Charles Manly Stedman died in 1930, he was the last Confederate veteran still serving in Congress.