MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Should a tax that was once used to fund pensions for Confederate soldiers and their widows be used to promote Black history?
That is the question facing Alabama lawmakers.
Most of the revenue from the old tax -- which is still collected today -- goes for other purposes, but 1 percent of it funds the Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek. It was the site of a home for poor Confederate veterans.
Sen. Clyde Chambliss tells The Montgomery Advertiser that he and Sen. Bobby Singleton will sponsor a bill this year that will preserve funding for the park, but require that the state spend an equal 1% on Black history sites.
That would be more than $500,000 a year for each purpose. The owner of a $100,000 house who utilizes Alabama's homestead exemption pays 10 cents a year for park's upkeep.
"It is imperative that we remember all of our history and learn from both the good and the bad," said Chambliss, a Prattville Republican. "I will continue working with all that want to share my love of history, to protect, enhance and restore symbols that will help us avoid the mistakes of the past and move our state forward in a positive direction."
Singleton, a Greensboro Democrat and African American, didn't respond to requests for comment.
Lawmakers in the past have tried unsuccessfully to remove the park's funding. Some places in the Alabama and across the South have removed Confederate monuments in the last year, after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis brought nationwide protests against racial injustice. But removing monuments more than 50 years old in Alabama remains illegal under a state monument protection law.
The Advertiser reports the bill would also establish a process where Confederate memorials and statues that have been removed from public property in Alabama be moved to the park and displayed. It's unclear how that would work with the current law.
The last Confederate veteran died at the home in 1934, leaving seven widows as resident. The state closed the home in 1939, instead paying welfare to five remaining widows. In 1964, lawmakers created Confederate Memorial Park as a "shrine to the honor of Alabama's citizens of the Confederacy." The park, run by the Alabama Historical Commission, came amid centennial observances of the Civil War, but also amid resistance to the Civil Rights movement by Alabama's segregationist government.