When the North Carolina Historical Commission met in March to hear public comment on removing Confederate statues from downtown Raleigh’s Capitol Square, it was expected that the commission’s study committee on the issue would have a recommendation for the full commission by April.
But as we head into the end of May, the committee has yet to make its formal recommendation.
That recommendation – and a final decision from the commission – may instead come next month, said committee member Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson.
“We are coming to a consensus,” Johnson said in an interview Thursday. “We ended up not making a decision in April and we’ve gone through most of the month of May getting feedback. We got hung up with waiting to hear back from our lawyers to get their advice. And right now the committee members are deliberating and coming up with their own positions.”
Though a date hasn’t yet been set, Johnson said she believes there will be a meeting of the full commission in June. The study committee will likely meet first, with the full commission meeting and coming to its final decision afterward.
“We’ll likely each have our own separate statements as well,” Johnson said.
At issue are three monuments on the capitol grounds, among about a dozen other statues. They are:
* The 75-foot Capitol Confederate Monument, erected in 1895, which commemorates North Carolina’s “Confederate dead.”
* The Henry Lawson Wyatt Monument, erected in 1912, which commemorates the first Confederate soldier killed in the Civil War combat at the Battle of Bethel on June 10, 1861.
* The Monument to North Carolina Women of the Confederacy, erected in 1914.
Last September the full historical commission put off a decision on removing three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol grounds. Instead, the commission formed a task force to study the politically fraught issue, which the North Carolina General Assembly dropped into their laps with a 2015 law that makes it more difficult to remove such statues.
The study committee consists of:
- Chris Fonvielle, an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
- Valerie Johnson, the Mott Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies and Director of Africana Women’s Studies at Greensboro’s Bennett College and chair of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission.
- Noah Reynolds, a real estate investor and entrepreneur and trustee of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
- Sam Dixon, an attorney and preservation advocate from Edenton.
- David Ruffin, a banker and chairman of the commission.
It’s not yet clear what will happen if the North Carolina General Assembly, which began its legislative session this week, ends its session before the Historical Commission makes its final recommendation. Legislative leaders in the GOP controlled state House and Senate are on record opposing the statues’ removal. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has advocated for their removal.