Tyrrell County activists want Confederate monument moved
Activists want a Confederate monument removed from the public lawn in front of the Tyrrell County Courthouse in Columbia.
The 23-foot statue of a Confederate soldier was erected in 1902 and includes the inscription that it was dedicated "in appreciation of our faithful slaves." It was moved to its current location in 1938.
"Having this monument in front of our courthouse is hurtful to people in this community," said Joyce Fitch, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Tyrrell County. "Many of us who live here would like to see our elected officials take steps to remove it from its current location."
The Tyrrell County Board of Commissioners is the body with authority to move the statue.
Concerned Citizens and EmancipateNC, a Raleigh-based social justice group, put up a billboard on U.S. 64 about two miles from downtown calling to remove the monument. Following a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, activists plan to gather at the billboard.
"The Supreme Court has said that monuments erected on public property are best understood as government speech aimed at 'conveying some thought or instilling some feeling in those who see them,'" said Ian Mance, an attorney at Emancipate NC who has worked with local organizers. "Tyrrell County's monument to 'faithful slaves' and slaveholders conveys a racially hostile message, and it has no place at a courthouse expected to administer equal justice under law."
These Confederate monuments have been coming down across the nation, something that has picked up since the murder of George Floyd in 2020. In the year following Floyd's death, at least 24 Confederate monuments were removed — or were approved for removal — in North Carolina, according to data tracked by WUNC. Since Floyd’s death, North Carolina has removed the second-most Confederate monuments of any state, trailing only Virginia.
Across North Carolina, 78 Confederate monuments still stand, according to data compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Many of these monuments, especially ones on government grounds, were first erected not directly after the Civil War, but during the Jim Crow era of the early 1900s.