New York—The Make It Right Project today responded to the North Carolina Historical Commission vote not to remove three Confederate monuments at the state capitol in Raleigh, deciding in agreement with a study panel’s recommendation. The vote was taken in response to a request from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper to move the monuments to the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site in Four Oaks. Commission members voted 10-1 to keep the statues where they are and to add historical context about slavery. The decision comes two days after a Confederate statue called “Silent Sam” was toppled by protesters at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“The only way to truly contextualize racist monuments and white supremacist statues is to take them down from their lofty positions of public reverence—particularly in centers of power such as the capitol grounds,” said Director of the Make It Right Project, Kali Holloway. “The Commission and study committee had an opportunity today to correct the historical record and help bring an end to the era of white supremacist Lost Cause mythmaking. Instead, they chose moral ambivalence and hostility to historical truth. The vote was yet another example of the frustrating institutional decisions that have led community outrage to boil over.”
“I’m disappointed by the Committee’s decision, but I’m not really surprised at all. It’s what I expected them to do—privileging politics and their own individual considerations over the good of the future of the state,” said William Sturkey, a history professor at UNC Chapel Hill. “In refusing to remove these tributes to the Confederacy, not only are they validating a white supremacist historical interpretation of the past, they’re also complicit in helping to continue normalizing white supremacy in ways that will help ensure that we remain so divided.”
Former Orange County Historical museum director Candace Midgett, who retired in 2017, added, “James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, has said that these statues were meant to create ‘legitimate garb for white supremacy,’ and queries why we would put up a statue of Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson—or, I would add, Silent Sam—in times of real suppression of civil rights of people of color in places like Raleigh, in places like Chapel Hill. There’s only one meaning to be extracted from that, and that is that these monuments are about touting white supremacy and intimidating people of color. That is why they were made and that’s what they continue to reflect where they stand. I believe the board of the university and the administration have this one chance to be on the right side of history and I’m hoping they find a way to take it.”
The Make It Right Project is dedicated to working with multiple groups—activists, artists, historians and media outlets—to remove Confederate monuments and develop post-removal protocols to tell the truth about history.