2 leaders say UofL offers great example in Confederate debate

Published: Jun. 24, 2015 at 2:34 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 8, 2015 at 3:42 AM EDT
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Raoul Cunningham (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Raoul Cunningham (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Tom Owen (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Tom Owen (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Critics are questioning lawmakers jumping on the anti-confederate bandwagon and the president of the NAACP Kentucky State Conference and Louisville Chapter Raoul Cunningham said he's just fine with that.

Cunningham said he does not care if it's a political move or not. He said the time is right to make a change in the Kentucky Capitol where a statue of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis stands. But others fear people are acting too quickly to tear down history.

[RELATED: KY Republicans want Jefferson Davis statue removed, Conway unsure]

"I can't see Jefferson Davis being in the Kentucky State Capitol," said Cunningham.

Metro Councilman and historian Tom Owen said he never says never, but disagrees with the statue removal for the most part.

"Don't rip the monuments, markers and statues and memorials down," he said.

Two well known Louisvillians with two opinions on the statue of the Confederate leader spoke about the same issue 12 years ago in Frankfort.

"It's offensive," Cunningham said in a press conference at the Capitol in 2003.

Owen responded then, "It's part of American history that was critical."

Back then, the move to dump Davis fell on deaf ears, but the recent violence in South Carolina brought it back to the table.

Both men believe the Confederate flag is a separate issue and believe the flag has become a symbol for hate groups.

Owen said, "Waving a flag in your face is very, very different than a stayed monument or marker."

Owen maintains history was traumatic and only helps us understand how far we've come. He wonders what's next? Could it be the taxpayer funded Jefferson Davis State Park in Western Kentucky?

Cunningham said that is an issue that should be taken up after the Davis statue, but pointed out aside from Davis being a slave proponent, his history in Kentucky is weak other than being born here.

"He was a Congressman, and a Senator from the State of Mississippi," Cunningham said, "he was the elected President of the Confederacy from the state of Mississippi."

Where Owen and Cunningham find common ground? The University of Louisville.

"I think this is an excellent model," Owen said, talking about a past and present combination of memorials at the University.

The Confederate soldiers monument built in the late 1800s is counter-balanced by Freedom Park. Freedom Park surrounds the Confederate monument and tells the story after slavery and the civil rights leaders who struggled to make a change.

Cunningham agreed, "I think this is a prime example of the Confederacy and honoring those who fought for civil rights."

Cunningham said the NAACP will again go to Frankfort and ask leaders to take the Davis monument down, but he would consider listening to a counter-balance memorial idea like the one at UofL if one is presented.

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