Historians want to add a historical attraction to Ivers Square in the downtown section of southeast Missouri’s Cape Girardeau. It’s a limited edition bronze statue of a black soldier who fought in the Civil War.
In 2017, the location was renamed after James Ivers, a black slave who enlisted in the Union Army inside the building and died fighting for his freedom.
Professor Steven Hoffman is the coordinator of the historic preservation program at Southeast Missouri State University and says the historic site was also a place where slaves were sold hundreds of years ago.
“So we acknowledge the slavery and oppression being real and being in that place, but the thing we value most is the struggle against that, and recognizing the courage of the people who struggled against it,” he said.
Hoffman and Cape Girardeau historian Denise Lincoln are spearheading the effort to recreate a rare statue of a black soldier in the same park that already has a Union statue built in 1911 and a Confederacy memorial built in 1931.
Both historians see the new addition as a way for this generation to represent the untold stories of men who fought in the Civil War just like James Ivers.
“A name by itself is nothing. If you don’t know who he was or why or what he stood for,” Lincoln said. “We can interpret that with a plastic and steel sign that may fade in time but to put something on the same comparable level as the existing monuments. Something that is enduring and lasting will stand there for several hundred years to tell the story I think tells the more worthy story.”
Lincoln says Cape Girardeau’s chance to commission the statue, created in just two other cities by artist Roy Butler, is a ‘fleeting opportunity’ because the mold is aging and can only create one other statue and another city in Tennessee wants to build it just as much.
Lincoln also thinks it will be a regional attraction for tourists and for those who live nearby.
“Bulter has been very invested in helping us see the vision and completing it,” Lincoln said. “Again this is a world-class statue and it’s a national monument already in Nashville. It will be on the Smithsonian Registry of American Paintings and Sculptures. So it is a landmark and will become that for us.”
Mike Jones works in Cape Girardeau and says he’d like to see the statue become a reality so he can bring his daughters to see it.
“I don’t have to drive to St. Louis, I don’t have to take you to a library to read a book like I can show you something physical,” Jones said. “I think it’s important to bring that type of history down here so that everyone can know it.”
To create, install and protect the new bronze statue, Lincoln says it will cost about $60,000. Donations for the project are being accepted at Old Town Cape, and Hoffman says they plan to start a gofundme page in the near future.
The historian’s goal to reveal the statue of the black soldier on June 19th, 2019 just in time for the Juneteenth celebration.
Missourinet media partner KFVS-TV contributed this report