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More Than Half Of North Carolina's Counties Have Confederate Monuments

A Confederate monument
Wikimedia Commons

The shooting of nine African-Americans earlier this month has prompted national debate over whether the Confederate battle flag should continue to fly at the South Carolina Capitol.

Gov. Nikki Haley called for the flag to be taken down while President Obama said it "represented more than just ancestral pride" during the eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney Friday.

"The state has no business being in the business of flying a flag and symbols that have meant exclusion and discrimination and racism," said Kerry Haynie, professor of political science and African and African American studies at Duke.

Meanwhile, a 75-foot monument has commemorated fallen Confederate soldiers at the North Carolina Capitol since 1895. It is one of dozens of monuments scattered across the state commemorating Confederate soldiers.

A Confederate soldier statue is a part of a larger monument outside the North Carolina Capitol
Credit Daderot / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
A Confederate soldier statue is a part of a larger monument outside the North Carolina Capitol

North Carolina has more monuments commemorating the Civil War than any other event, according to "Commemorating Landscapes of North Carolina," a project conducted by UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries. More than half of North Carolina's counties have dedicated at least one memorial to Confederate soldiers. 

An interactive timelineshows most Confederate monuments in the state were erected between 1890 and 1930.

The Difference Between A Monument and a Flag

UNC-Chapel Hill History Professor Fitz Brundage helped map North Carolina's monuments. He said the Confederate battle flag was revived  in the 20th century as a symbol of the Confederacy and the "white South." However, he said Confederate monuments hold a different meaning from the flag.

"The act of flying a flag is inherently an act of honoring whatever that flag represents," Brundage said.

"A monument is where my leanings as a historian kick in, and I would hate to see monuments destroyed. They are historical artifacts that can tell us things and we can use them to think about the past and our relationship to it."

Brundage said there are about five Civil War monuments to every World War I monument in North Carolina.

UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries also provides an interactive map below of monuments and landmarks in Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

On the Raleigh maps, you can find three Confederate monuments outside the State Capitol. You can also see the Confederate monument nicknamed "Silent Sam" on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus near E. Franklin St on McCorkle Place:

Raleigh, 1900-1912

Raleigh, 1912-1920

Chapel Hill

Who Are We Remembering?

Lori Martin, professor of sociology at Louisiana State University, said Confederate flags and monuments glorify a racist legacy of white superiority and black inferiority.

"There is no real way to separate that myth from these various symbols," Martin said.

"We also need to think about who are we not honoring, right? So we are not looking at the people who fought to uphold the rights that we claim to hold so dear, and we are not taking into account the people that do not have the privilege of knowing who their ancestors were because they were stripped from their homelands."

'Colored Union Soldiers' monument in Perquimans County.
Credit North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources
A 'Colored Union Soldiers' monument in Perquimans County.

Martin applauds communities that are memorializing more diverse voices with historic markers and moving away from honoring historic figures who may have promoted the beliefs of the Confederacy. 

However, Steve Quick, writer for the Southern Heritage News & Views, said people are being too sensitive about Confederate symbols.

"There are a number of things that a lot of us feel are offensive. The problem is we have been overly sensitized in this country to every real or imagined grievance," he said.

Recently, students at UNC-Chapel Hill successfully campaigned to have a campus building renamed. In 1920, the building was named after William L. Saunders, a UNC alumnus with ties to North Carolina's Ku Klux Klan.

Fewer than ten Civil War monuments in the state  honor Union soldiers, according to UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries. Only one monument in Perquimans County honors black Union soldiers, and it does not feature a a statue of a soldier. Another memorial recognizes Union County's "Confederate Pensioners of Color."

Haynie said there is a difference between buildings named after white supremacists and Civil War monuments outside the State Capitol.

"We can't erase the fact that North Carolina was a part of the Confederacy," he said. "I think it is important for us to see that as present-day citizens."

Charlie Shelton-Ormond is a podcast producer for WUNC.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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