The Confederate monument that stands just outside the entrance of the Sampson County Courthouse serves as a reminder of a “dark” time, according to members of the local branch of the NAACP.
Members of the Sampson County Branch Unit No. 5446 of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, through a letter addressed to both city and county government officials, have requested for the immediate action and removal of the monument.
That letter, was presented to city council members earlier this week and has been forwarded from the county manager’s office to all commissioners. When contacted about the NAACP’s reasoning behind sending the letter, local branch president Lee Byam requested the board members be allowed to release an official statement.
“It is the mission of the Sampson County Branch of the NAACP to advocate for the rights of all people,” the statement, read by Byam, stated. “The Civil War ended in 1865 with the defeat of the Confederacy. The Confederate statue is a reminder of America’s dark legacy of slavery that deprived human beings of their God-given and constitutionally protected human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Comments on social media have offered both support and opposition for the request, and some say they haven’t paid the statue much attention — until now.
“It has not bothered me. Honestly taking these statues down does not change anything,” one Facebook post states. “People have a choice to hate or love. I rather be at peace than to continue to endure discord amongst people.”
At last week’s City Council meeting, Clinton Mayor Lew Starling said the property in which the monument sits, is not owned by the city, but the county. Assistant County Manager Susan Holder confirmed the county’s ownership of the land, the receipt of the letter and said the letter has now been sent to all commissioners for their review and discussion.
In 2015, then governor Pat McCrory signed a law that was passed by the General Assembly that makes it illegal to remove “an event, person or military service that is part of North Carolina’s history” without permission from the North Carolina Historical Commission. This law prohibits local officials from making the decision to remove the Confederate statue that is on county property.
While Byam and other members of the local NAACP branch say they are aware of the state law that prohibits cities and counties from removing Confederate statues of memorials, a request for Sampson County seek action from the state to join other states, who have already removed Confederate statues and monuments.
Historical information says that in September 1908, the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy began working to have a monument erected to commemorate the men of Sampson County who served in the war. Work to secure the monument continued over the next few years, and on May 10, 1916, with over 4,000 people present, the base of the local monument was laid on the courthouse square.
“It was in May 1911 that the Daughters of the Confederacy sought funding for the erection of a statue here in Clinton,” the letter continues. “After approaching the county commissioners, the board voted 2 to 1 in favor of providing funds to help erect the statue. In May of 1916, the statue was dedicated on the courthouse square. Tax dollars are still being used to maintain the symbol of racism and prejudice. After 101 years, the statue remains as a reminder of the dark legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and racism.”
“The Civil War ended in 1865. We should be about the business of racial healing and reconciliation.”
Other social media comments say the statue is a part of history — a history that can’t be changed.
“Regardless of how hard one tries, you cannot erase history! If removing a statue representing people history makes one feel better, go ahead. However, any mention of slavery also needs to be removed from text books. If we erase things that are considered by others to be bad, erase all of it. Go ahead an erase all of the wars from the text books because they were bad, erase any mention of hitler. Don’t pick and choose what you want to remain. Our history, good or bad, made us who we are today!”
Byam was joined by Larry Sutton, Willie Mitchell and Luther Moore when she released the written statement on behalf of all local NAACP members.
As a means for motivation, the NAACP has adopted the motto, “Forward together, not one step back.”
When asked if monuments like the Confederate statue that stands in front of the courthouse are an example of a step backward, Byam said, “I can’t comment at this time, other than the statement that has been given.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.