RALEIGH, N. C. – Less than two days after the protesters at the University of North Carolina’s flagship campus was a statue of a Southern soldier, a commission that plans to announce its recommendation for the three other 20th-century monuments on the state Capitol grounds.
A study committee of the state Historical Commission is expected to recommend Wednesday whether the three Southern statues in Raleigh should be moved. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, suggested last year that they will be moved to a Civil War battlefield to ensure their preservation.
The full commission is expected to vote on the recommendation of the commission. The committee could vote to move the monuments, leave them in place or re-interpret.
While Cooper’s request of last September could not say why he thought that the three monuments were in danger, the request will follow two events: a violent white nationalist rally about a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the overthrow of an Employee statue outside a Durham County government building by protesters.
The commission is the vote will occur about 36 hours after a statue known as “Silent Sam” was overturned on UNC Chapel Hill campus Monday night. The bronze figure of an anonymous soldier was pulled out of the stone pedestal by protesters used banners to mask their action.
The statue, erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1913, was already under a constant, costly police surveillance after being destroyed in the past few months. Many students, teachers and alumni argued that “Silent Sam” symbolized racism and asked officials to take it down.
At the end of last year, Cooper asked the commission to view the monuments on the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site is located in Four Oaks, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) away from the Capitol.
The attorney general’s office wrote in May that the commission recommended that the monuments be moved, provided that the move satisfies a number of criteria, including the relocation is necessary to preserve them. The commission must also find that the new site is of similar fame, honor, visibility and availability, the letter stated. It may also recommend that the monuments are reinterpreted, but they can’t be changed in that process.
So well known, a letter from the state historic preservation officer shows that the Bentonville Battlefield attracts approximately half of the visitors that come to the state Capitol grounds with the exception of the civil war, the 150th anniversary year of 2014-2015. That year, almost 113,000 visitors came to the battlefield and almost 106,000 to the Capital grounds.
In 2016-2017, the battlefield attracted 47,000 visitors, while nearly 104,000 went to the Capital grounds, according to the letter from Kevin Cherry, the state historic preservation officer and vice-secretary of the Ministry of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Each of the three monuments of the Capital garden was founded decades after the end of the civil war, as silent Sam: the Capital of the Confederacy Monument, dedicated in May 1895; the Henry Lawson Wyatt Monument, dedicated in June 1912; and the North Carolina Confederate Monument, dedicated in June 1914. Silent Sam was erected in 1913.
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