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North Carolina’s brand shouldn’t be homage to false past

September 6, 2018

During the unveiling ceremony of the Confederate Monument on the west side of the old State Capitol Grounds, Col. Alfred Moore Waddell spent a good deal of his address defending the right of the states to secede from the Union and denied that the South went to war for slavery (Tyler Dukes/WRAL).

CBC Editorial: Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018; Editorial #8338 The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Raleigh is North Carolina’s front door. The capital presents the first and lasting impressions, not of a single place or community, but an entire state.

Headed east on Hillsborough Street toward the state Capitol, the view dominated by a 75-foot-tall monument – commemorating “Our Confederate dead … First at Bethel, Last at Appomattox.” It was dedicated May 20, 1895 and unveiled by Julia Jackson Christian, granddaughter of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.

It is a relic to what should be a time gone by -- part of the Jim Crow-era propaganda campaign to cloud the realities of defeat in the Civil War. As significant, it was a daily reminder to the freed African-American population that they remained second-class with rights and privileges still subject to those white men wanted to grant.

Is our first message to visitors; “Welcome to North Carolina. We were part of the Confederacy”?

Despite effort of the state legislature’s leadership to the contrary, it is not a brand that advertises a state on the move; that embraces change and welcomes ALL with talent and energy looking to embrace the opportunities the future might offer.

The recent, seemingly reluctant decision by the state historical commission to keep three Civil War monuments on the Capitol grounds with “context” added, is inadequate and a copout.

It is past time that North Carolina’s front door reveals a state open to the future, not wedded to a false past. It is time to remove the war monument along with two others -- the Henry Lawson Wyatt monument and the monument to the Women of the Confederacy.

They should be moved – as Gov. Roy Cooper has thoughtfully proposed -- 45 miles to the Bentonville Battleground in Johnston County. It is appropriate – the site of the state’s largest Civil War battle and the only significant Confederate effort (and unsuccessful) to defeat the Union Army led by General William T. Sherman as he marched through the Carolinas in the spring of 1965. It was the last full-scale battle of the Civil War.

While the actions by the General Assembly’s leadership that essentially commandeered every Confederate monument in a public space in the state may have been motivated by efforts to stir a political base, it has done little to effectively address real public concerns and help North Carolina step out of the muck of the past onto higher ground.

“Silent Sam” at the entry of North Carolina’s flagship institution of higher education, a 75-foot edifice at the entrance of the state’s Capitol, gives the wrong first impression. It is time for them, and others like them around North Carolina, to go and be placed in a location with the appropriate context.

There is nothing welcoming about statues that honor North Carolina’s participation in a war to keep 4 million people (362,000 in N.C.) enslaved. A brighter reality of North Carolina’s future is a far better greeting.

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