As NC reckons with Confederate monuments, marker in Georgia supplies historical context

This week a judge issued a temporary restraining order that prevents the removal of the Confederate monument at the historic courthouse in Chatham County

The Chatham County Commissioners voted to removed the statue, located at the historic courthouse in Pittsboro, back in August after giving the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) until Oct. 1 to relocate the statue. This week’s ruling puts off the removal of the statue, where neo-Confederate and anti-racist protesters have faced off for months.

The controversy over the Pittsboro statue is one of many across the state involving Confederate monuments, from the toppling of the “Silent Sam” statue at UNC-Chapel Hill to the N.C. Historical Commission declining to suggest removal of the Confederate monuments in downtown Raleigh last year.

Many discussions of Confederate statues involve the idea of adding markers that contextualize the statues, preventing the false impression of history many historians say was the original goal when they were erected.

This summer DeKalb County, Georgia put up such a marker at the site of the Confederate monument at its historic courthouse  — and it’s getting raves from history experts who say the statues have gone without that context too long.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

And now, that historical marker is receiving praise from afar for its truth-telling about the “lost cause” movement and the factual history of the Civil War.

“Now this is how to do it,” Washington & Lee University history professor Michelle Brock wrote on Twitter. “Honest, effective public history does not pull punches. When monuments to the Lost Cause & white supremacy cannot be removed, they need to be called what they are.”

As UNC students and community members continue their struggle to remove the names of enslavers and avowed white supremacists from buildings on their campus, UNC officials continue to say they would prefer to contextualize the university’s history properly.

But many students in the movement say they doubt UNC officials will be as frank in contextualizing the school’s history as DeKalb County.

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