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'North Carolina Needs More Monuments.' Whom Should We Recognize?

An image of a monument for black soldiers in the Civil War
Chris Meekins
NC Dept. of Cultural Resources

There are more than 120 Civil War monuments in North Carolina, outnumbering state monuments commemorating any other event. But Keith Hardison, State Director for Historic Sites, said people need to keep putting more up, whether they recognize the Civil War or civil rights.

“If you want to talk about monuments, let’s talk about more, not less, because that’s the way to get a better balance of history in public spaces," Hardison said.

We want to hear from you what monuments may be missing in North Carolina. Let us know who or what deserves a monument in the state by filling out a survey here.

The number of Civil War monuments commemorating the Confederacy  has recently come under scrutiny across the South in the wake of the shooting last month at the predominantly black Emanuel AME Baptist Church in Charleston, SC.

Since the shooting, the words "black lives matter" have been spray-painted over three Civil War monuments in Durham and Chapel Hill.

Hardison would like to see more monuments representing minorities in the state, specifically one on the State Capitol grounds to commemorate African American Civil War soldiers. He said he believes the state's Civil War monuments give a disproportionate view of white Confederate soldiers.

Only one monument in tiny Hertford (a population of about 2,000) recognizes the roughly 3,000 African American soldiers from North Carolina who fought during the Civil War.

Hardison said his agency authorizes new monuments on state property, but the state currently does not appropriate money for monuments. Therefore, private groups have to present a proposal to theNorth Carolina Historical Commission.

If they are approved, private groups must raise the money for the monument, which can be a challenge. For example, Hardison said a group is raising $5 million to build Freedom Monument Park in Raleigh in memory of African Americans’ fight for freedom. So far, though, they have raised less than $25,000.

An image of Vietnam veterans memorial at NC Capitol
Credit Todd Martin / Flickr Creative Commons
Flickr Creative Commons
NC Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the State Capitol

Along with a lack of monuments for black soldiers, Hardison said the state also has no monument recognizing Native Americans who fought in the Civil War. He said he wants to see one put on the grounds of the State Capitol, alongside statues of figures in African American history.

Currently at the North Carolina State Capitol, a Vietnam Veterans Memorial depicts two soldiers helping a wounded comrade in a firefight. It is the first statue at the State Capitol to depict a black man and Native American, as well as the first to be sculpted by a woman.

What monuments and memorials is North Carolina missing? Who do you think deserves recognition?  Fill out the survey below and tell us why a person, a group of people, or an event deserves a monument in the state. We will share some of the responses.

Charlie Shelton-Ormond is a podcast producer for WUNC.
Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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