Tear Down That Statue?

One of my favorite stories is about the destruction of the cotton industry in Southern Alabama around the turn of the 20th century:

Beginning in about 1890 the Boll Weevil started what would be a 20 year migration from Mexico into Southern Alabama.  By 1910 Enterprise, Alabama was a town of just over 2000 souls, most of which earned their living from agriculture, namely cotton farming.    Shortly after 1910 the Boll Weevil was in many Alabama cotton fields, making short work of cotton crops.  Naturally, this was a major concern for farmers and in fact, Tuskeege Institute’s George Washington Carver warned farmers to diversify their crops and plant things such as sweet potatoes, soy beans, and peanuts.  I am certain many farmers wished later that they would have listened.

By 1915 Enterprise’s cotton crop was decimated by the Boll Weevil, leaving farmers in a wake of destruction and regret.  Guess what they did next?  Yep, they planted a variety of other crops, including peanuts.  It took two years to recover but by 1917 Enterprise was not only back on its feet, it was one of the leading producers of peanuts and peanut products in the country.  Two years later in 1919, Enterprise City Councilman Roscoe Fleming proposed that the city celebrate the Boll Weevil for helping turn the economy around.  So that’s what they did.

The Boll Weevil monument stands today in downtown Enterprise as a reminder that good can come from bad.  That sometimes in defeat, comes victory.  That tragedy can bring opportunity.  Enterprise was right to build the monument.  I like this story because Enterprise was humble enough and smart enough to recognize what brought them to their knees was ultimately a blessing and not a burden; it helped them get to where they are today.

The simplest and least effective response for Enterprise and for us all, would be one of anger and outrage.  An important lesson here is the initial tragedy could have been avoided had the farmers listened to the experts. Another and maybe the most important lesson however, is the farmers aren’t tearing down the statue today because of the pain it caused at the time. The Boll Weevil statue was not erected because it was positive, or that people today wish for another infestation, it was erected to remind the people of Enterprise of the bad days of yesterday so they could see more clearly the good days today. 

6 thoughts on “Tear Down That Statue?”

  1. Were people’s lives threatened by violence? Were rights taken away by the majority that dominated their society? Thousands up thousands lost their lives because of racial hatred that resulted in the Civil War. Same with World War I and II, innocent lives were lost by Hitler and his ovens in his quest for racial purity and Americans went to war to stop him. They made great sacrifices to protect innocent people.
    If the good people of Enterprise, Alabama want to pay homage to an inanimate object, so be it. How many innocent people were murdered while Enterprise, Alabama made its two year comeback

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    1. There seems to be quite a difference between Hitler and his dream of racial purity and a bunch of idiot white supremacists marching in the streets. The Germans learned from Hitler’s era and include the holocaust in there public school curriculum. The Civil War is an important phase in American history. I guess my main point is, there are too many statues in America recognizing historical figures who by today’s standards are evil. There’s no justifying storming cities and destroying statues. It will not bring about healing and harmony which is the supposed goal of all of this I assume.

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  2. Pulling down monuments (other than during serious political regime change) is as repulsive as having seen films of ISIS destroying cultural antiquities. A vibrant nation has a diversity of symbols and respects them whether or not it agrees with them. I don’t hear Jewish people calling for the demolition of Auschwitz or Dachau despite the atrocities committed there: those places are preserved and honored as memorials with the dictum “Never forget.” I was seared by the words of Santayana I read at the Dachau Holocaust Museum I visited in 1978: “Those who can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

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  3. the two are not comparable at all. the boll weavil wasnt a traitor hellbent on destroying the united states of america, but the confederacy WAS…to preserve slavery. i wonder, mayor, how YOU would feel were you black and had to pass by reminders of your slavery history living in this land that declares all men are created equal. take the statues DOWN and put them in museums…we need to know this history and never forget it. we do NOT need to be lauding traitors to our country by allowing their statues in public places.

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