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Statue of General George Armstrong Custer in Monroe is subject of controversy

Library of Congress
General George Armstrong Custer lived and went to school in Monroe. A statue was erected in his honor in 1910.

Competing petition drives are fueling the debate over whether a statue of General George Armstrong Custer in Monroe should be removed. Statues of Confederate soldiers and leaders as well as statues of people who enslaved or murdered indigenous people, such as Christopher Columbus, are being removed in cities around the country as part of a movement to deal with racism.

Custer was a Union hero of the Civil War. Then he was ordered to the West to fight Native Americans. There he and his troops wiped out many villages.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

In 1910, the large bronze sculpture of Custer on a horse was installed atop a massive stone pedestal. 

Katybeth Davis launched the petition to remove the statue. She says a compromise proposed by the city council would bring together history experts, scholars, Native Americans, and others to determine what should be done with the statue.

“This allows at least for open dialog, get more members of the community involved and see what see what everybody has to say, what we want to do with that,” she said.

Davis is open to a compromise. But, she wants the statue to at least be removed from a large pedestal so that people don’t have to look up to the bronze statue of Custer on a horse.

“They also have to have some sort of Native American tribute or memorial that would be of equal size, if not bigger,” she added.

The issue is controversial in Monroe. Citizens against the removal are angry and want the tribute to the hometown hero to stay. Those who want it removed say Custer was guilty of genocide. The city hopes to find a compromise that includes greater historical context.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.