Alida Snow at her home in Brunswick on Monday. Snow is a great-great granddaughter of Confederate Gen. John Brown Gordon. Snow and dozens of her relatives sent a petition to government officials in Atlanta calling for the removal of the statue of their descendant outside Georgia’s state house. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Alida Snow of Brunswick grew up hearing that her great-great-grandfather was “on the wrong side of history.”

Her ancestor John Brown Gordon was a Confederate major general, a senator, the governor of Georgia, and is believed to have been the head of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.

A statue of him on horseback stands on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol.

Inspired by the nationwide wave of anti-racism protests and the continuing call for the removal of Confederate monuments, Snow worked with her mother and her daughter to gather signatures from a total of 44 of Gordon’s descendants and sent Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp a letter demanding that the statue be removed from the capitol grounds.

Snow worked to contact as many descendants as she could – many of them distant relatives she didn’t know. She heard from fewer than 50, of which only two declined to sign the letter. One, a journalist, cited professional reasons. The other thought the letter was ineffectual.

“I’ve been thinking about it for years,” Snow said.

The letter, which she sent to Kemp’s office on June 19 in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday, stated that, “as Governor of Georgia, our ancestor was instrumental in re-establishing and perpetuating the political and social culture of white supremacy and the oppression of black citizens.”

This statue of Confederate Gen. John Brown Gordon stands in front of Georgia State Capitol. He was a governor and senator of Georgia, and is believed to have led the Ku Klux Klan in the state. Photo by TheCustomofLife/Wikipedia

“The primary purpose and effect of this statue was to celebrate and mythologize the white supremacist cause of the Confederacy,” it continued, before stating that the signatories requested and fully supported the removal of the statue.

Kemp’s press secretary said the governor’s office had not received the letter, and further requests for comment went unanswered. Snow has not heard back from Kemp.

Kemp has not made any public comment regarding the statue, although a number of public officials –including President Trump – have become outspoken critics of recent attempts to remove Confederate monuments.

The statue of Gordon is just one of several that has become a target for protesters. But Georgia state law makes removing them difficult – if they are moved, monuments must be placed in a location of similar prominence. Still, Snow hopes that having the force of Gordon’s descendants might help their cause.

“I saw an article about protests at the statue and people calling for it to come down … and I thought, ‘OK, I just got to do this and I shouldn’t be waiting around for somebody else,’ ” Snow said. “It’s been up too long already.”

While people are sometimes impressed by her ancestor’s reputation as a war hero and politician, Snow said, that was not the narrative she heard as a child from her mother. 

“I don’t remember ever not knowing that slavery was a terrible thing, and that (Gordon) was on the wrong side of history,” Snow recalled.

Snow isn’t the only local connection to the Confederate general.

In an oft-remembered historic moment, Gordon and his men surrendered to Maine’s Joshua Chamberlain in 1865 after the Battle of Appomattox Court House. Both men described the surrender in their memoirs –Chamberlain ordered his men to salute their former enemy, and Gordon followed suit. 

Later, both Gordon and Chamberlain would become governors of their home states.

Although Snow lives in Brunswick and works at Chamberlain’s alma mater, Bowdoin College, the connection is purely coincidental. 

Snow and her relatives also sent the letter to the lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, the speaker of the Georgia house, David Ralston, the House and Senate minority leaders, and state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, who has co-sponsored a bill banning Confederate monuments in Georgia. 

Of the legislators, only House Minority Leader Robert Trammell responded to a request for comment. 

“I will continue to advocate for the statue’s removal and will advocate for changes to state law that will ensure the ability of a governing authority or local government to remove such statues,” Trammell said. “Taxpayer funded and maintained monuments and displays in the public square should be symbols that unite Georgians, and should not be divisive symbols with a nexus to hate.” 

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