Ken Burns Tells CNN That Civil War Statues Should Be Removed, Even As Donald Trump Threatens Jail Time For Monument Meddlers

On CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time Tuesday night documentarian Ken Burns, who made his name in 1990 with The Civil War, told the show’s host that, in his informed opinion, Confederate monuments across the country “have to go.”

This comes on the same day that President Donald Trump said he will issue an executive order threatening up to 10 years in jail for “anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property.”

Trump also boasted about defending the Washington D.C. statue of President Andrew Jackson from a “sneak attack” by activists who wanted to tear it down.

But Burns had a different take, pointing out that “more than a quarter of the United States presidents owned other human beings,” including Jackson.

“I think we’re in the middle of an enormous reckoning right now in which the anxieties and the pains and the torments of injustice are bubbling up to the surface,” Burns said. “It’s very important for people like me, of my complexion, to it be as quiet as possible and to listen. What I know from my reading of history is that the confederate monuments have to go.”

He rejected the idea that pulling down Civil War monuments was, in effect, erasing the past,

“They’re an attempt to rewrite history and to essentially celebrate a false narrative about what happened during the Civil War and to send the wink-winks, the dog whistles, as we’re fond of saying today, across the generations of what the Civil War was about,” Burns explained. “It’s so interesting we’re having this having this argument because the people that we people who responsible for the deaths of — yes. These are people responsible for the deaths of the loyal American citizens.”

“They are not about heritage,” said the filmmaker. “This is about the reimposition of white supremacy in the South at various periods.”

Burns created a short video for the Washington Post today on the subject.