Monday, December 8, 2014

Revolutionary War Hero Isn't Welcome in Washington, DC

Francis Marion and the famous "sweet potato incident"
One of the members of the Columbia Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution has been working for years to get a monument of Francis Marion placed in our nation's capital. After going through a long process which included getting the SC Congressional delegation (all of them) to support a law that would authorize the National Parks System to plan for the statue, the President signed the law in 2008 to go forward with the project.

Fittingly enough, there's a small park in DC that is already named "Marion Park" in honor of the man. It also happens to be located along South Carolina Avenue.  Sounds great, right? Accordingly, the NPS thought that putting the monument there would be logical. What could go wrong?

Well, some people don't like the idea of putting a monument of Francis Marion up in Marion Park.

Because of racism, obviously.
A South Carolina plantation owner and slaveholder, Marion fought against the Cherokee Indians during the French and Indian War. In the Revolutionary War, he used the guerrilla warfare tactics he learned from the Cherokee against the British, earning him the nickname “Swamp Fox.”

“They say Francis Marion is a hero, but who is he a hero to?” says Lawrence Smith, 70, who lives about a block from the park. “The first Americans, who he helped wipe out? I bet they don’t feel that he’s a hero. The African-Americans who were kidnapped and brought here in bondage, do they see him as a hero?”

The proposed placement of the Marion memorial is particularly insensitive, says Capitol Hill resident Peter Glick, 53, since the statue would sit in the shadow of the Progress For Christ Baptist Church, which was built by freed African slaves right after the Civil War.

“The people who lived in this area and who went to this church no doubt escaped from people like Francis Marion,” Glick says.
Hey, here's a fun little game. Let's see what happens if we replace Marion (the evil slaveholder) with someone else.

"A South Carolina Virginia plantation owner and slaveholder, Marion Washington fought against the Indians during the French and Indian war."

Yes, this George Washington fellow fought in the Revolutionary War, but he was a plantation owner and slaveholder. Wait, I've just been informed that Thomas Jefferson, the man who drafted the Declaration of Independence, was also a plantation owner and slaveholder as well. Gee, I guess it's a good thing that neither of those two jokers have any monuments in the vicinity.

The sad thing is that Francis Marion fought side-by-side with blacks, whites, friendly Indians, free and slave. It was probably the first integrated fighting force in North America. That's a historical fact. Oh, you didn't know that? Here, let me Google that for you.

But I guess some people like Peter Glick and Lawrence Smith would rather just wallow in their own shallow understanding of history.


  1. Marion Park is a very small neighborhood park in an area that has very little green space. The residents use it intensively for recreation, and many feel there is little room to accommodate a statue. Mr. McCabe could want to place a fountain that would spew Belgian chocolate in the middle of the park, and many would say, no thank you. And by the way, while appreciating the contributions Francis Marion made, let's not pretend they rise to the level of those of Washington or Jefferson.

    1. Anon,

      Your practical objection about the logistics of the placement of the monument is well taken and logical. The moral objection of others, on the basis that Marion was a slaveholder, is not.

      All the best,

      Bryan Caskey