Local News

Vandals tag Confederate monument in Durham cemetery

Posted July 1, 2015 11:10 a.m. EDT
Updated July 1, 2015 6:06 p.m. EDT

— A monument in Maplewood Cemetery in Durham honoring local Confederate soldiers was vandalized overnight.

"Black Lives Matter" and "Tear It Down" were spray-painted on the granite marker, which was put up in May to honor all veterans who fought for the Confederacy in the Orange County area during the Civil War.

Douglas Nash, commander of the Pvt. Lorenzo Leigh Bennitt Camp 773 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which put up the $3,000 monument, said he was saddened by the vandalism.

"Black lives do matter. Take it down is definitely not the way to go," Nash said. "It’s not like we are honoring the Nazis who have committed atrocities. The folks from the South were simple folks who felt they were being invaded. It had nothing to do with slavery. It just saddens me to no end to see things like this happen."

Maplewood Cemetery, off Duke University Road near Duke's West Campus, is owned by the city of Durham, and officials said the gates are locked daily at 3:45 p.m.

Durham police are investigating the crime.

SCV member Stewart Dunaway spent part of Wednesday scrubbing and power-washing the marker to remove most of the damage. City crews were able to remove what he couldn't

"I'm disappointed but not surprised," Dunaway said. "The horrific event at Charleston obviously has caused a lot of issues to resurface about the role of the Confederates."

Nine people attending a Bible study class at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., were killed on June 17, and a white supremacist who posed in online photos with the Confederate battle flag has been charged in the shooting.

"When you go to school, you see this overshadowing dislike or hatred to the Confederacy, and that general view (is) attaching it directly to slavery," said Dunaway, who had ancestors from Florida who fought for the South in the Civil War.

"I have pride that my relatives were willing to take a stand," he said. "What frightens me is that, when history is going to be altered to be politically correct or to follow a path that people think is the right way to report it, people never get a balanced history. As soon as we start to alter history to paint a different picture, the truth isn’t known."

But William Barney, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an expert on the antebellum South, said the truth is that the Civil War was explicitly about slavery and white supremacy.

"It was exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for a majority of Southern whites after the war – and now – to openly state we fought the war in order to maintain a vast system of human bondage," Barney said. "It’s very difficult to confront the central reality. That means looking it in the face. That’s very difficult to do. We’d rather come up with defenses – 'Oh, it’s all about states’ rights.'"

The battle flag became a symbol to justify the "holy cause" of the war for the South, he added.

The SCV group picked Maplewood Cemetery for the memorial because members have also upgraded sections of the cemetery with markers for veterans, Nash said. Members also have ceremonies at the cemetery to honor their ancestors, he said.

"Imagine, if you will, in May your father died or mother died or someone special to you died. You put up a nice headstone, and someone has gone and vandalized it. It just makes no sense," he said.