BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Sarah Collins Rudolph thought she'd never see what happened in her hometown: Prompted by protests, the city removed a 115-year-old Confederate monument near where her sister and three other black girls died in a racist church bombing in 1963.
A wave of Confederate memorial removals that began after a white supremacist killed nine black people at a Bible study in a church in South Carolina in 2015 is again rolling, with more relics of the Old South being removed from public view after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota.
In Birmingham, where Rudolph lives, the graffiti-covered, pocked base of a massive Confederate monument was all that remained Tuesday after crews dismantled the towering obelisk and trucked it away in pieces overnight. Other symbols came down elsewhere, leaving an empty pedestal in Virginia and a bare flagpole in Florida.
Rudolph, whose sister Addie Mae Collins died in the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church, had to see for herself. She lowered a protective face mask to take in the absence of an edifice she long considered a symbol of oppression.
“I'm glad it's been removed because it has been so long, and we know that it's a hate monument,” said Rudolph, 69. “It didn't represent the blacks. It just represented the hard times back there a long time ago.”
Confederate symbols across the South have been targeted for vandalism during demonstrations sparked by Floyd's death. Now, even some of their longtime defenders have decided to remove them.
In Alexandria, Virginia, it was the United Daughters of the Confederacy that took action early Tuesday, removing the statue of a soldier gazing south from Old Town since 1889.
And outside Tampa, Florida, a Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter lowered a huge Confederate battle flag that has long been flown in view of two interstate highways.
Birmingham took down the obelisk a day after protesters tried to remove the monument, which had been the subject of a protracted court battle between the city and state, which passed a law to protect Confederate icons after rebel monuments were challenged and removed following the killings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Birmingham, seeking to fine the city $25,000 for violating the state law. Mayor Randall Woodfin said this week that the fine was more affordable than the cost of continued unrest in the city. Online fundraising drives have raised more than enough money to pay the fine.