NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Amid a controversy about moving a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith to Lake County, a Democratic lawmaker has urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to place the statue at the Olustee Civil War battlefield in rural North Florida.
Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, sent a letter this week to DeSantis that said she took part in a weekend protest against the plan to move the statue to Lake County.
The Lake County Commission last month supported relocating the statue of Smith from National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. to the Lake County Historical Society and Museum, a county facility in Tavares.
Smith’s statue has represented Florida for nearly a century at the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, but state lawmakers have decided to replace it with a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune.
Civil War lesson
The Olustee Battlefield, which is in Baker County near the Osceola National Forest, was the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle, which took place in 1864. It is part of the Florida park system.
“Re-enactments of the battle at Olustee are held annually in February and include a school day for Florida students,” Thompson wrote in the letter to DeSantis.
“The exhibit of the Edmund Kirby Smith statue at the Olustee Battlefield would provide an excellent opportunity to teach Civil War history and answer the many questions that remain regarding slavery, democracy and unity that were central to the conflict.”
The governor’s office last month pointed to a decision by the state’s Statue Location Selection Committee to choose the Lake County historical society from among three applications for a long-term loan agreement for the statue.
But Thompson, who is Black, asked DeSantis to revisit the issue and said the Lake County Commission’s decision last month “is dividing that community and fomenting unrest.”