Charlotte’s Confederate monuments: Their past, present and murky future

Gov. Roy Cooper said he wants the monuments to come down, but it won't be easy

Charlotte, N.C. — National attention is on Confederate monuments after white nationalists, neo-Nazis and the KKK descended on Charlottesville this past weekend. They were there ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, but more than that to show up and terrorize anyone hoping to move our country forward on racial issues.

Activists in Durham toppled a Confederate soldier statue on Monday, bringing more national headlines as well as a condemnation on Twitter from Gov. Roy Cooper, followed by a plan to remove the statues legally. Not that it will be easy.

Charlotte’s Confederate Monuments

Charlotte has two main Confederate monuments of note, one that used to sit at Old City Hall, but was to the Confederate plot at Elmwood Cemetery, where other monuments and the grave sites of soldiers are also located. The other sits on the Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) campus, between the Grady Cole Center and Memorial Stadium, off North Kings Drive.

Elmwood Cemetery, Confederate Plot

In 2015, a monument that had stood at Old City Hall, until it was defaced with the word, “Racist.”

Confederate monument Charlotte

After it was defaced in 2015 and taken down for repairs, this monument was relocated from Old City Hall to Elmwood Cemetery. (Credit: Davie Hinshaw, Charlotte Observer – dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com)

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While it was down for repairs, a law passed making it illegal to remove, move, or alter historical monuments. The city used a loophole to move it to Elmwood Cemetery, as it was not currently on display at the time the law was passed.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police said they would be monitoring the sites of the monuments, and when we visited Elmwood Cemetery a camera was visible and pointed at the plot, visible at the end of the video below.

The monument was erected in 1977 by the Confederate Memorial Association of Charlotte, and reads:

Mecklenburg County remembers with honor her gallant sons who fought in the armies of the Confederate states. With the other brave soldiers of the South, they struggled nobly for the cause of independence and self-government. Their heroic deeds will be forever honored by patriotic men and women.

No mention of fighting to maintain the right to enslave other humans.

Oh, and seceding so you can do so, that isn’t so patriotic.

CPCC Campus

Confederate monument CPCC Charlotte

The Confederate memorial near Grady Cole Stadium and American Legion Memorial Stadium near CPCC before it was defaced and placed inside a case. Erin Bacon, Charlotte Observer ebacon@charlotteobserver.com

The one on the CPCC Campus commemorates a reunion of Confederate veterans in Charlotte in June of 1929.

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It is more explicitly racist, including in its inscription that “they preserved the Anglo-Saxon civilization of the South.”

It too was vandalized in 2015, but as it wasn’t moved, instead cleaned on the spot and enclosed behind a protective case, and so remains at its original location.

Will they come down?

Just because Gov. Cooper is in favor of removing the monuments, as well as Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, as Charlotte Agenda has reported, that doesn’t mean you should expect these physical reminders of one of our nation’s darkest days to disappear overnight, or even this year, for that matter.

The Republicans still have a super majority in the North Carolina General Assembly, and they seem much less bothered by these statues and monuments than Cooper and Roberts.

If they do start to come down, expect resistance. Hopefully not to the magnitude seen in Charlottesville, but there will certainly be a push back.

That is, if we even get to that point. For now, at least as far as the legal channels are concerned, don’t expect them to go anywhere anytime soon.

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Posted by Jeff Taylor / Social Media Editor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport and has lived in Charlotte since 2006.@jefftaylorhuman.