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After failing to relocate Confederate monument, county to settle for sign calling monument racist

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After failing to relocate Confederate monument, county to settle for sign calling monument racist

An inscription on the Confederate monument in Decatur. Photo by Erik Voss
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A debate about what to do with a Confederate monument in the Decatur Square has churned in the background since a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va in 2017.

The monument is located by the old DeKalb County courthouse and was constructed in 1908. It is widely seen as a symbol of the Jim Crow era south, a not-so subtle message to black residents who would question the status quo.

County leaders have tried — and failed — to remove the monument. Georgia law prohibits removing these monuments, but an attorney for DeKalb County believes the law allows for the monument to be moved as long as it isn’t obscured. That hasn’t budged the monument one inch. A proposal to put the monument in the Decatur Cemetery was quickly nixed. Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Stone Mountain was also identified as a place to send the monument, but that didn’t come to pass either.

The county can’t move the monument, but has decided to do the next best thing: putting a sign near it pointing out the monument is racist.

DeKalb County Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader are sponsoring a resolution to “Adopt a Contextualization Statement for the Confederate Monument.”

The county’s policy is still removing the monument. But a sign contextualizing it will have to do for now. The following statement, written by a group of historians from Agnes Scott, Emory, GSU, Kennesaw State and the DeKalb History Center, will be placed on a plaque adjacent to the monument:

In 1908, this monument was erected at the DeKalb County Courthouse to glorify the “lost cause” of the Confederacy and the Confederate soldiers who fought for it. It was privately funded by the A. Evans Camp of Confederate Veterans and the Agnes Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Located in a prominent public space, its presence bolstered white supremacy and faulty history, suggesting that the cause for the Civil War rested on southern Honor and States Rights rhetoric- instead of its real catalyst-American slavery. This monument and similar ones also were created to intimidate African Americans and limit their full participation in social and political life of their communities. It fostered a culture of segregation by implying that public spaces and public memory belonged to Whites. Since State law prohibited local governments from removing Confederate statues, DeKalb County contextualized this monument in 2019. DeKalb County officials and citizens believe that public history can be of service when it challenges us to broaden our sense of boundaries and includes community discussions of the victories and shortcomings of our shared histories.

The county is budgeting $3,000 to erect the plaque and if the monument is eventually moved, the plaque will travel with it.

The resolution will be on the County Commission’s March 12 agenda.

 
 
Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

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