27 Aug About Those Statues
Tension in the triangle area of North Carolina ramped up considerably after the wild clashes in Charlottesville, VA.
A few days after the chaos and the killing there protesters in Durham pulled down a Jim Crow era confederate statue in front of the old courthouse. People were shocked, not only to see it fall, but also to see it twist and bend out of shape so easily.
It might be a little less surprising when we look at the history of when and how these statues came to be. The vast majority of statues commemorating Confederate soldiers were produced after the turn of the century. As the Washington Post pointed out the other day, the monuments were mostly produced in the North, as the South was still largely agrarian and had very little industrial base. The monument makers were politically agnostic and used the same molds to make both Southern and Union monuments.
In the South many of these monuments were paid for and placed by the Daughters of the Confederacy. I read that the reason these women’s clubs paid for the statues is that they did not own property and could not vote so they were less at risk of having the property confiscated or their right to vote revoked for treasonous activities. Former soldiers in the confederacy were only able to retain their land and their rights after the conflict if they ceased advocating against the United State. The DOC paid for one the one that was installed in Durham. It was supposed to be bronze but the way in which it crumpled makes that unlikely. It was erected in 1924, and apparently by that time, the South had gained some industry as it was produced in Georgia. A few days after the statue was pulled down there was talk of a KKK march to the statue. I went over to investigate and found a massive crowd forming to resist the potential march.
As you can see in the video it was a raucous affair that attracted national attention.
A few days later it was announced that there would be a major protest of a Silent Sam statue on the University of North Carolina campus. Like the one in Durham, the UNC statue was paid for by the Daughters of the Confederacy. However, much of the advocacy for the statue was carried out by Julian Carr a wealthy business owner who was a private in the war but was given the honorary title of general due to his largess in regards to promoting the cause of the Confederacy. When the statue was unveiled Carr gave a long dedication speech. One would be hard pressed to read that speech and not see that the real purpose of the statue was to codify white supremacy. Here is one excerpt that my friend recited to me when I told him about the fact that there was going to be a protest there.
I trust I may be pardoned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather personal. One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with a double-barrel shot gun under my head.
That night my daughter and I went to film the protest against the statute. Those who were protesting were not in a mood to listen and anyone who tried to discuss why the statue should stay was shouted down mercilessly. Our goal was to document rather than to judge the proceedings. As we tried to film the older gentleman at the end several people got in front of the camera and shouted him down when he tried to talk. Their position was that he should have no platform to argue for the relevance of the statue as he was a “white supremacist”. He did not agree with that assessment.