Letter to the Editor

Congrats to Cape on Ivers Square

Saturday, November 10, 2018

I write to congratulate Cape Girardeau’s reimagining of Common Pleas Courthouse Square as Ivers Square, through the leadership of Dr. Steven Hoffman. As a faculty member at Southeast Missouri State University and a nationally recognized authority on African-American history, historic preservation, and downtown revitalization, Hoffman is uniquely qualified as this project’s champion.

His vision was to embrace a more inclusive view of history, beyond today’s monuments to Confederate and Union veterans. Missing was recognition for African-American soldiers for whom the war was an opportunity to gain personal liberty for themselves and hope for their families. Born as slaves, some auctioned on the courthouse steps, they volunteered, served proudly and, in many cases, died in U.S. uniform as free men.

After learning about James Ivers, a former slave who joined the Union Army, Hoffman began an effort to rename the square for James and Harriet Ivers, the soldier’s widow. Working with local historian Denise Lincoln, Old Town Cape and community leaders, he achieved dramatic successes: a $127,000 American Express grant for square renovations, city council support, an educational plan for the site, and a proposal for a statue to commemorate James Ivers, representing all African-American Union veterans.

As a former Cape City Council member, I look forward to returning for this statue’s unveiling and to thank Steven Hoffman personally. Cape Girardeau is fortunate to have this civic leader, who has been such an indispensable visionary in preserving the history, built environment, and inclusive heritage of this wonderful city.

WAYNE BOWEN, Oviedo, Florida