Confederate monuments

Hannah Breisinger


As calls for racial justice continue, the removal of confederate symbols continues to be a hot topic in Wilmington. But street name changes, in particular, probably won’t be happening anytime soon.

Hannah Breisinger


It’s been 122 years since a mob of white supremacists took to the streets of Wilmington, burning down Black-owned businesses and murdering dozens of Black citizens. The aftermath of that event still lingers -- in city street names, in racist language uttered by police officers, in voter suppression and racial health disparities. Now, a new movement of racial justice is forcing city leaders and citizens to confront Wilmington’s past -- and visualize a more equitable future.

As we watch public tolerance for Confederate monuments shift, and as we see Black Lives Matter, both the idea and the organization command center stage in a mainstream global conversation, new questions are emerging (largely for white people) about systemic racism and where and how it hides in plain sight.  How is it perpetrated?  How is it expressed?  And why has it been invisible to so many white people for such a long time?  How has white supremacy managed to adapt over time to changing cultures in order to survive?

In an historic announcement Tuesday night, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo named Donny Williams as the City’s new Chief of Police. 

Nancy Beach / Wikimedia Commons

 

What to do with the Confederate Monuments that sit in major intersections in downtown Wilmington? 

That was the issue dominating a forum on race – hosted last night by Mayor Bill Saffo and City Council Member Kevin Spears.  The  answer could come as soon as Tuesday.

 

Mayor Saffo says he’s exploring options for removal of the statues – which are protected by a 2015 state law.  One of the options, used by Governor Roy Cooper to remove statues from public spaces in Raleigh, is to declare them threats to public safety. 

 

Amy K. Nelson / http://shaunassael.com/bio

Sonny Liston, heavyweight boxing champion in the early 1960s,  died near the beginning of 1971.  The reason listed on the death certificate:  natural causes.  But nearly 50 years later, the question of whether he was murdered is an open one for some.  It’s a question Shaun Assael set out to answer with his book, The Murder of Sonny Liston:   Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights. 

Rountree Losee

On November 15, 1864, William Tecumseh Sherman began his “March to the Sea” from Atlanta to Savannah.  It was the beginning of a major blow to the Confederacy during the American Civil War.  While the 19th century sounds like ancient history to some of us, there exists a tangible division in this country which has this year, played out in an emotional debate over how to treat Confederate monuments and statues. 

City of Wilmington

Wilmington is home to more than 117-thousand people.   That’s growth of about 11,000 people since the last census in 2010.  73% of the population identifies as white, less than 20% is African-American, and 6% is Latino or Hispanic.

Vince Winkel

Confederate Memorial Day is a state holiday in North Carolina, officially observed on May 10. Six other states celebrate the holiday. It’s not without controversy. In New Orleans, Confederate monuments are now being removed from public places. Meanwhile, at Fort Fisher, a new interpretive marker was just dedicated next to the Confederate Monument. The service was more about men … than soldiers.

Billy Hathorn (Own Work), CC-BY-SA-3.0, 07/30/2012

When the Confederate flag was removed from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse last year, it ignited a discussion in the American South about the role of Confederate memorialization.  But while there may be local discussions about removing Confederate monuments, it would take an act of North Carolina’s General Assembly to do so.