Prior to its 1912 statehood, Arizona formed part of what lawmakers called the New Mexico Territory. Part of that land seceded from the United States and became part of the Confederate Arizona during the Civil War. The state’s Confederate legacy lives on in six monuments that local Black activists, like those in several former Confederate states, now fight to remove.
The East Valley and Maricopa County NAACP chapters joined Black Lives Matter PHX, Black community-focused news outlet Arizona Informant and other local leaders for a press conference today (June 5) to demand that Governor Doug Ducey take action on the monuments.
"We cannot tolerate, whatsoever, any sympathy or memorials for the Confederate soldiers," said East Valley NAACP president Roy Tatum. "We call on Governor Ducy, we call on his boards, to do the right thing, to be an Arizona that represents everyone." Ducey did not respond to the demand as of press time, but a spokesperson told The Arizona Republic/USA Today on Saturday that the monuments’ status "really fall under the jurisdiction of other entities" that he would not specify.
Tatum previously explained to NBC 12 News that the Confederate soldiers recognized in these monuments "fought for segregation, they fought for separation, they fought for slavery." He took specific issue with a rock statue near the Arizona State Capitol, which is state property.
The Republic reported in 2015 that State Representative Reginald Bolding, who also spoke at today’s press conference, campaigned to rename Jefferson Davis Highway, which commemorates the president of the Confederacy. His ultimately unsuccessful action was one of many taken by Black activists and lawmakers nationwide after admitted White supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine Black parishioners at Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Republic explained Arizona’s Confederate links in a January 2017 article. Confederate generals set up camp in Tuscon after a 1862 expedition, and their soldiers fought Union troops at the Battle of Picacho Pass that same year. War enthusiasts revisit the monument at the site of the battle and stage annual reenactments.
PBS notes that Arizona legalized slavery in 1860—which disenfranchised several free Black residents—and Confederate generals brought Black slaves with them on the 1862 expedition. Historian Hubert Howe Bancroft wrote in his 1889 chronicle of the New Mexico Territory’s history that Black enslavement accompanied the long-term enslavement of the area’s Native peoples by Spanish, Mexican and American occupiers.