Local News

Panel considers future of Durham's Confederate monuments

Posted May 10, 2018 8:24 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:42 p.m. EDT

— A committee meeting Thursday night for the first time hopes to begin the process of figuring out what to do with monuments and other items in Durham that are linked to the Confederacy.

The 12-person City-County Committee on Confederate Monuments and Memorials meets inside a county building near where protesters last summer pulled down a statue dedicated to Confederate soldiers, calling it racist.

"I do realize it’s a very passionate topic for many, many people on both sides," said Charmaine McKissick-Milton, co-chairwoman of the committee. "It’s probably time for the discussion, and we’re going to have it."

The group's first priority will be the crumpled statue, which is now in storage, and the pedestal that still stands outside the former county courthouse, McKissick-Milton said.

"I really haven’t made up my mind," she said of the site's future. "I have said to people that, when you put something away in a closet, you might tend to repeat history. So, I’m not sure what I feel about it, and I do want to hear what the community has to say."

The committee plans to meet twice a month for six months and will make recommendations about other Confederate remnants in and around Durham.

"This could be street names, this could be plaques, this could be school names that are meant to honor either the Confederacy itself or individuals associated with the Confederacy," committee Co-chairwoman Robin Kirk said.

Durham County officials are unaware of any such remnants on county property, other than the toppled statue and its base, county spokeswoman Dawn Dudley said.

"Many things are on private property. Some things are in cemeteries, so those we don’t really have any control over," McKissick-Milton said.

The city-owned Maplewood Cemetery has a marker for the gravesite of Confederate soldiers. The Unity Monument at the state-owned Bennett Place Historical Site in Durham was erected after the Civil War to promote reconciliation.

Although city and county officials can change street and school names, the state Historical Commission would have the final say on any recommendations from the committee to move statues or plaques.

"A big part of our goal is to have people not only engage in the process, but learn from each other about the history of memorials, about what Durham has, and about what would be good for Durham in the future," Kirk said.