A local group is fighting to remove a statue at the Pitt County Courthouse that's been there since 1914. The statue originally went up to honor Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. More than 90 years later, there is a war of words over what the statue really says.
"It is a relic of white supremacy," said Rev. Ozie Hall. "It symbolizes black inferiority. It symbolizes the suppression and segregation of blacks."
Hall is leading a grassroots effort urging county commissioners to remove the monument.
"His contention was that it had racial undertones," said Pitt County Commissioner Tom Coulson. "I don't believe that it does. It's a war monument. I believe that the majority of people in Pitt County, the state, the country do not want to see war monuments torn down."
Neighboring Wilson County also has a Civil War monument at its courthouse, showing flags from both sides. The State Capitol in Raleigh is surrounded by Confederate war monuments, honoring the service and sacrifice of many during the war.
"This does represent some of our history, this statue, but it doesn't represent all of it," said Eastern Carolina University history professor Dr. Karen Zipf.
A group of ECU history professors said it's important to remember that most monuments went up during a period of reconciliation and segregation, when African Americans did not have a voice. They said its tough to separate the history of the Confederacy from its beliefs.
"It is like what we say today when we say, 'I support the troops, but I do not support the war,'" said professor David Dennard. "I think in fundamental terms, that is a contradiction."
"It has to do with the bravery of our soldiers that happened to fight in that war, and I think they need to be remembered," said Coulson.
Hall said the courthouse isn't an inappropriate place to do that.
"We haven't said that we want to attack your heritage, if that's what you're proud of," said Hall. "We're only simply saying it should be moved to another location."
So far, no county commissioner has sponsored the idea to remove the statue, so no vote has been taken. Hall's group says they will keep fighting until it comes down.
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