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Confederate monument fight returns to state Capitol Wednesday

August 21, 2018

The fight over Confederate monuments in North Carolina returns to the state Capitol Wednesday, about 48 hours after protesters toppled a statue to Confederate veterans on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The State Historical Commission will meet beginning at 10 to decide whether to grant Gov. Roy Cooper’s request to move three Confederate statues off state Capitol grounds.

It was not immediately clear whether the commission has the power to grant that request.

In 2015, state lawmakers voted to make it illegal to move any historical monument unless it’s for reasons of historical preservation or public safety. North Carolina State University professor Dr. Susanna Lee takes her students on a tour of the monuments as part of her course.

North Carolina State University professor Dr. Susanna Lee takes her students on a tour of the monuments as part of her course.

The Capitol Confederate monument from 1895, with the seal of the Confederate states of America, the Henry Lawson Wyatt statue, a 1912 tribute to the first North Carolina Confederate soldier killed in the Civil War, and the 1914 Women of the Confederacy monument are on her list.

But Lee thinks the monuments should be moved elsewhere because, she says, they aren’t about veterans.

“The monuments placed in Confederate cemeteries in the late 1860s and early 1870s, those are about mourning the Confederate dead. These monuments are an assertion of white supremacy,” she said.

The three statues were erected during the period of racial violence at the turn of the 20th century in North Carolina, including the white supremacy campaign and the Wilmington Riots of 1898.

“So, these monuments are a great deal more problematic, I think, in our present context because they’re outside of these sites of governmental power,” Lee said.

Some of Lee’s students believe the Civil War was a noble fight about states’ rights, not slavery. Lee says that was a rewriting of history by southern leaders after their loss to Union forces.

“Growing up in the south, we’ve inherited these ideas. And so people have learned them and to suddenly learn and to see evidence to the contrary can be destabilizing,” she said. “I think people feel as though they’ve been insulted. Well, it’s not about taking offense or being defensive or feeling guilty. It’s about understanding the past and what really happened. ”

Wednesday’s proceedings begin at 10 a.m. in the first-floor auditorium of the Archives and History/State Library Building. The meeting is open to the public and doors open at 9 a.m.

A heavy police presence is expected.

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