State News

Task force members support removing Confederate monument

Posted November 18, 2020 8:21 a.m. EST

— A majority of task force members appointed to consider the fate of a Confederate monument in a North Carolina city said they support removing it.

Nine of the Vance Monument Task Force's 12 members said so ahead of their Thursday vote regarding the monument honoring Zebulon Baird Vance, who served as North Carolina's governor during the Civil War, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

That vote will serve as a recommendation to the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. The obelisk, made of rough stone blocks, stands more than 50 feet tall, with the name “Vance” carved into its base. It was erected more than 120 years ago by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

“If this monument is left in its original form, rather than completely removed or its materials altered beyond recognition, it will continue to serve as a symbol of white supremacy to those most affected by its presence,” said task force co-chair Oralene Simmons said.

Other members, including co-chair Deborah Miles, said they oppose relocation, because no museum has expressed interest in taking the monument, and some other new location might become a pilgrimage site for white supremacy, the newspaper reported.

Two task force members have called for repurposing it somehow. One of those members, Shirley Whitesides, said Asheville can “teach other communities that we’ve got to learn to tell the truth and weave it into a work of art.”

“The monument has not bothered me as much as seeing crosses burning in my neighborhood growing up in Rocky Mount by the Ku Klux Klan,” Whitesides said.

But Miles said repurposing it won't remove its meaning.

“If it is renamed and a few words removed and others put on, it will always be the Vance Monument in a vestige of a period in our community story that promoted white supremacy and white control of all major institutions,” Miles said.

Task force members were appointed amid the national protests over racial injustice that led to Confederate symbols being toppled across the South. Other monuments in Asheville have been taken down.

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