Durham ponders what to do with Confederate monuments

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Friday, June 8, 2018
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Confederate monument meeting held in Durham.

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Durham County's Confederate statue was yanked down off its pedestal at the old courthouse by demonstrators who believe it to be a symbol of hate of the nation's slave-holding past.

Thursday night, the city-county committee tasked with deciding what to do with the Confederate monuments that remain on Durham public properties heard expert testimony from UNC-Chapel Hill history professor Fitzhugh Brundage, who has studied the all of the state's monuments and memorials.

"Prior to the Civil War there were almost no monuments in this state," Brundage said in his accounting of the state's monuments.

Brundage explained to committee members how monuments which may have been erected to commemorate heritage can come to mean something more sinister as time and sensibilities change

"Typically, (people who erect monuments) want the monument to represent one thing. They would like to sort of fix it on the landscape for perpetuity," he said. "And we can understand all the motivations why they would want to do that. But, we also know that it's going to change."

Committee members are tasked with cataloging every Confederate monument and symbol in the city and county by next October; then make a recommendation on what to do with all of them.

"Since the monument came down in front of the courthouse some people are glad that it's gone. Some people are saying let it stay down. Why take it down? Why erase our history?" asked Durham resident Brenda Pollard, Durham resident and descendant of Civil War veterans.

Barry Archer, an African-American man who addressed the panel proudly wearing a "Bull City" T-shirt and Durham ball cap, argued that city and county monuments need to be a place people feel safe.

"If we're going to have monuments, we need them to be very inclusive," Archer said. "We need them not to send dissonance into our society which is what several monuments can do."

Durham's Confederate monument committee meets again June 21 at Rougemont Ruritan Club.

Meantime, on the state level, a final decision is still forthcoming from the NC Historical Commission on whether to remove the Confederate monuments from the grounds of the State Capitol in Raleigh.