Governor Mary Fallin’s office has chosen to remain neutral in the controversy over monuments to the confederacy which has been rekindled in the wake of the deadly white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, VA. last Saturday.
“The governor’s office is not aware of any Confederate statue or monument on state land,” the Governor’s press secretary Michael McNutt said.
The Sooner State wasn’t formally a part of the Republic until 42 years after the end of the Civil War. However, the state has at least nine monuments, graveyards or historical sites honoring the confederacy. Several are operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society but many were donated and are maintained by confederate sympathizers.
Oklahoma City’s Wheeler Park does share its name with the confederate commander Joseph Wheeler, but was not named in his honor. The park is instead named after a former park commissioner, J.B. Wheeler who died in 1906, according to the city’s spokesperson Kristy Yager.
Some lists include the Oklahoma State Capitol building, which flew a confederate flag on the grounds as part of a 14-flag display until it was removed during the 2003 renovation of Centennial Plaza.
The city of Stonewall and Jackson County credit their naming to the rebel general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. There are also nearly a dozen schools named after Confederate army leaders including four in the Oklahoma City Public School district named after Robert E. Lee, Stand Watie, Joseph Wheeler and Jackson.
“As a first step, OKCPS is committed to working closely with community historians to ensure we have a full understanding of the current heritage of our schools,” OKCPS Superintendent Aurora Lora said in a statement on Wednesday. “I am not interested in forcing a new name on any community that does not feel it is necessary.” Lora said the district will be starting conversations with surrounding communities about possible name changes, which could cost up to $50,000 per school.
Governors and mayors in several southern and east coast states have ordered the removal or concealing of Confederate monuments in the week following a deadly rally for white supremacy in Charlottesville, VA. The rally was held in part to protest the renaming and removal of a park and statue, respectively, of Robert E. Lee. The clash between white nationalists, neo-Nazis and anti-fascist protestors left one woman dead and 19 others injured.
An Oklahoma “46” flag, currently flying at the state’s capitol was captured in images during the rally. The red flag adorned with a white star and blue 46 was seen being carried as neo-Nazis marched and chanted supremacist slogans like “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”
When asked for a comment about the flag’s appearance, McNutt distanced Oklahoma from the rally but stopped short of condemning the person carrying the flag. “One person holding a version of Oklahoma’s original state flag does not represent the state in any official capacity whatsoever,” he said.