Centennial Park Soldier facing new direction

Published: July 29, 2022 9:11 PM EDT

A special monument is now getting more eyes on it because it’s been turned around and is no longer facing the river.

The Centennial Park Soldier symbolizes freedom from slavery and memorializes the 19,000 black soldiers who served in the Union army during the Civil War.

The Centennial Park Soldier statue getting turned around to face the uncommon friends display and downtown. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Lee County was named after Robert E. Lee, the man who led the Confederate army. The Centennial Park Soldier was commissioned to pay tribute to the winning side, who included black soldiers in its fight to preserve the Union.

The man who worked to turn the soldier around was smiling on Friday.

For years, the United States colored troops monument faced the Caloosahatchee. With renovations being done to Centennial Park, that just didn’t work anymore.

“We walked down first thing I said ‘he is facing the wrong way’ so now they are trying to right their wrong,” said community activists David Kelly.

Soldier
The Centennial Park Soldier statue getting turned around facing a new direction. (CREDIT: WINK News)

David Kelly and Denise will visit downtown a lot. They agree with the city’s decision to turn the USCT second regiment soldier toward the Uncommon Friends display, and all of downtown.

“Everybody should see it its a black soldier and he deserves recognition,” Denise said.

Lodovic Kimble pushed for the change. He remembers when the city dedicated the statue in the early 2000s. “The significance of an African soldier playing the role and fighting for his own freedom gives great positivity to this community,” Kimble said. “For that monument to stand there and say that we fight for our freedom as we still fight for our freedoms today.”

Kimble said while this is progress, there is still much work to be done within the community to showcase the role of black people in Lee County. And next on his priority list is to force the county to remove Robert E. Lee’s portrait from the county courthouse.