Edenton, N.C. leaders agree to move town’s Confederate monument
Town leaders in Edenton, N.C unanimously agreed this week to move a Confederate monument, potentially ending a lawsuit from a coalition of groups that wanted to protect the structure.
Town Council went into a closed session Tuesday night to discuss the issue with attorneys and came back to vote without discussion.
The statue of a single Confederate soldier will move from the town’s historic waterfront to Hollowell Park on the western edge of the town limits.
It’s not clear if this is the end of Edenton’s Confederate monument controversy. A coalition of groups - he United Daughters of the Confederacy, North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Colonel William F. Martin Camp 1521 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans - sued the town when conversations to move the statue started.
Under North Carolina law, they argued, monuments can’t be moved to places of “lesser prominence.” Monuments that were originally placed outside, for example, can’t be moved into museums.
It’s not clear if the new location would be considered less prominent, or if it’s an acceptable compromise.
Ed Phillips, the attorney representing the groups suing to keep the monument where it is, did not immediately respond to WHRO’s request for comment on the town’s decision.
The town set aside $40,000 for the move — but didn't give themselves a deadline.
The statue of a single Confederate soldier has been the focus of a town controversy. Some see it as idolizing a racist, treasonous group of people while others defend it, saying it’s for veterans and doesn’t mean any harm to Black North Carolinians because Black people were also Confederate soldiers.
Like many Confederate monuments in the South, Edenton’s monument did not go up until decades after the end of the Civil War.
In 1909, the United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for the monument in front of the town courthouse. In 1961, the monument moved to the waterfront where it now sits in front of town council chambers.
The proliferation of such monuments happened at the same time the South began enacting laws limiting the rights of newly freed Black people.
Despite the timing and the placement of the monument, a lawyer for the coalition of groups suing to keep the monument in its current place said the statue is an educational memorial.
“These are men, African American men, who should be honored and they’re not. And to me, that is not telling the full story of history,” Phillips previously said.
But opponents see the monument as a symbol of the Civil War, slavery and oppression of Black people.
“When you do the history on it, when the statues came up … across this country, it was about keeping Black people in their place,” said Pastor John Shannon of Edenton’s Providence Missionary Baptist Church and a member of the Edenton Human Relations Commission.
“A lot of people in this town feel as though they are not looked at as being equal to others. And so it's a lot of things that need to be worked out in this town.”
WHRO's Lisa Godley contributed to this report.
This story was originally published at WHRO and is republished here with permission.