Most people are familiar with the deadly Unite The Right rally one year ago in Charlottesville, VA. That deadly protest started over the proposed removal of a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Several days before that incident, I had phoned the office of Governor Roy Cooper (D-NC). I spoke at length with a woman in his office (Hannah) about how perplexed I was by the existence of these monuments since moving to Raleigh, NC over 8 years ago. She advised me to email the Governor, which I did. On the Monday following the death of Heather Heyer at the hands of an attacker marching with White Nationalists, who drove his car into a crowd, striking and killing her, I sent an email and phoned the Governor again.
Hannah explained to me that day that the Governor had not made a statement yet. Two hours later, he did. He announced that he felt the Confederate monuments at the State Capitol should be moved off the Capitol grounds and placed in a museum.
On Monday, August 20, 2018, protestors gathered on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and toppled the Confederate memorial known as Silent Sam. Two days later, the North Carolina Historical Commission ruled that the Confederate monuments shall remain where they are on the State Capitol grounds.
The controversy about these statues and monuments may appear to be a recent event, but nothing could be farther from the truth. They have been controversial, and the impetus behind them a cause for bloodshed ever since they were erected during a period between 1895 - 1915 known as the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. Scholars conclude that this was a period after Reconstruction in which history was being rewritten.
In 2015, the NCGOP enacted legislation to protect the 100 (+) Confederate Monuments on public lands in North Carolina. The law passed the NC General Assembly and was signed into law by NC Governor Pat McCrory (R) even though he objected to the law, stating, “While I disagree with the process created in the bill and the overreach into local decision making, the overall goals of the bill merit my signature.” Democrats wanted local authorities and the North Carolina Historical Commission to have that power.
William Fitzhugh Brundage, an American historian and the William B. Umstead Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said: "Let there be no doubt about the intent of this or similar "heritage preservation" laws: They "protect" and perpetuate the racist commemorative landscape that currently exists."
On Tuesday June 18, 2019 we will conduct a reading and discussion of our investigative report on the history and controversy behind the Confederate Monuments in North Carolina, the current partisan divide, and how race has always played an important role in North Carolina politics.