When did cotton become king?
In August 2017, William Bell, then Democratic Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, instructed the administration of Linn Park to cover a memorial in honor of the Confederate soldiers who fought in the American Civil War (1861–1865). Bell's decision was the first step in a process to improve relations between the black and white citizens of Birmingham, some of whom were descended from slaves and the other from slave owners. Councilor Jonathan Austin had even urged the mayor to dismantle the monument because, in his opinion, it is "an offense to our citizens".  At first glance, removing or imposing the memorial may seem like a routine matter for the Birmingham City Council, but it actually turned into a much more complex and politically charged debate. 
Ousmane Power Greene
is Professor at the Department of History at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. His research interests include African American history and African American political movements. [email protected]
Months before Bell's decision, Kay Ivey, Republican governor of Alabama, had responded to the surge of protests against monuments and memorials dedicated to the Confederate by signing a new law to prevent exactly what the Mayor of Birmingham and his city council wanted to do. The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act prohibited local and city authorities from removing statues, memorials, and memorials on the grounds that the Confederate statues were an important part of Alabama's history.
With that, the dispute over the removal of the statues and monuments seemed to lean in favor of those who believed dismantling would rob people of the opportunity to honor the past - including those parts of the past that may be an affront by today's standards . Alabama Senate Republican Gerald Allen argued: "Contrary to what critics claim, the Memorial Preservation Act seeks to preserve all of Alabama's history - good and bad - so that our children and grandchildren can get out of it Learn the past and create a better future. " Democratic Senator Hank Sanders of Selma disagreed, saying that those who drafted and signed the law were only trying to "protect monuments that symbolize oppression for much of Alabama's citizens". 
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