In front of the county courthouse in Bradenton, Florida, stands a memorial to Confederate soldiers.

One town resident, though, is hoping to replace the statue with a potentially less-divisive memorial, and it would certainly be more adorable.

In Memory of… Smugglers?

The current standing granite obelisk reads, “Erected by Judah P. Benjamin Chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy June 3, 1924.” The pillar recognizes Generals Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Finally, the text tells us the monument was raised “In Memory of Our Confederate Soldiers.”

Residents of Southwestern Florida weren’t particularly active in the Civil War, but some people from the area are proud of their ancestors’ role in smuggling goods past the Union army’s naval blockade of the state. The area also played host to the fugitive Confederate Secretary of State, Judah P. Benjamin, for a month following the war.

To an outsider, it’s not hard to be critical of a monument even though it was built at the height of the Jim Crow era to praise slaveholding elites and the soldiers who fought in the war.

It’s worth also worth noting that Bradenton’s incorporation as a city didn’t occur until 1903, nearly 40 years after the end of the civil war. Plus, it took another 21 years following the establishment of the city to erect this monument.

To keep the timing in perspective, though, it took 59 years for the United States to complete the World War II memorial—although there are more than a few differences between WWII and the Civil War.

A Local Celebrity

Until very recently, Bradenton’s most famous resident was Snooty the manatee. On July 22, 2017, more than 5,000 people attended the birthday celebration for this 69-year-old acclaimed citizen.

Unfortunately, Snooty passed away just days after his birthday gala. The sea cow gained recognition as the “oldest known manatee in the world.”

The town of Bradenton resides on the Manatee River, and Snooty was known as the “county’s official mascot.” That’s the same county whose courthouse hosts the aforementioned Confederate memorial.

A Bold Proposal

Anthony Pusateri is a 29-year-old Bradenton resident who grew up visiting Snooty at the South Florida Museum’s aquarium.

Over the past several months, there were rumblings around Bradenton suggesting that the town, like St. Louis and New Orleans, should remove the Confederate memorial. Therefore, Pusateri came up with a brilliant proposal: Replace the existing statue with one of Snooty instead.

“To honor Snooty’s legacy as a positive icon in Bradenton,” reads the petition hosted on, “I propose that the negative symbol of racism and oppression that is the Confederate monument be relocated and replaced with a statue of Snooty the Manatee. By doing so, the Confederate monument could possibly be moved to a museum (or other more appropriate location) out of everyday public eye and a more positive symbol then take its place.”

The petition went to the county government after gaining  11,000 signatures within four days. 

The name of that county? Manatee County.

“Countrymen Again”

After General Lee surrendered in 1865, effectively ending the Civil War, a Union Army band began to play celebratory music, but they were cut off by the Union General Grant.

“The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again,” Grant told his officers and the band.

More than 150 years after being reunited as countrymen, this nation is still divided. Since no man seems to be able to bring us together, maybe it makes sense to try a manatee.