PITTSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – Chatham County commissioners voted Monday night to approve an agreement with the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy regarding the Confederate monument in the center of Pittsboro, though it remains unclear how the ongoing debate over the statue’s future will get resolved.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the UDC and the county calls for the two entities to work together on “reimagining” the monument that’s dedicated to “Our Confederate Heroes.”
“This MOU does not commit either party to any particular course of action, but does commit both parties to discussions and negotiations in good faith concerning the monument,” the agreement reads.
County Commissioner Mike Dasher said the monument could be modified and rededicated as a monument to all veterans. He said he’s been meeting with Barbara Pugh, president of the Winnie Davis UDC, about the issue.
A group called “Chatham for All” came to county commissioners earlier this year urging them to return the monument to the UDC, essentially ending a lease agreement the UDC has with the county to keep their monument on public property. In April, hundreds of people attended a county meeting where the group presented its case.
“And in this day and age, it represents what’s known as hate speech,” said Howard Fifer.
Fifer told commissioners Monday they have the right to return the monument and would still be complying with a state law that’s aimed at protecting Confederate monuments on public property.
Dasher acknowledged it is an option for commissioners. Before deciding on that, he said he wants to work with the UDC on another possible solution.
Some people who support keeping the monument in place told commissioners they blame the controversy on people who’ve recently moved to the county.
“It’s only gotten to be an issue here recently because of newcomers,” said T.C. Hudson. “Anybody that wants to come to this county is welcome if you like it that way it is and the way we’ve always dealt with it.”
It was also unclear what compromise could satisfy residents.
“You ain’t putting nothing out there that says ‘black.’ You ain’t putting nothing there that says anything about slavery,” Woody Weaver said. “I don’t want to see no ‘black’ out there. I don’t want to see no ‘white’ out there. I want to see ‘American.’ I want to see ‘Chatham citizen.’”
Monica Jarnigan said she’s skeptical of the discussions with the UDC.
“How do you discuss this statue in good faith with a group whose mission includes the obliteration of proven history?” she asked.
Commissioner Karen Howard took issue with people who criticized new residents moving to the county as being the source of the controversy.
“We are better for the black people that are here,” she said. “This country isn’t changing because someone told us to go back somewhere. I have nowhere to go back to. This is home.”
The MOU does not give a timeline for when any changes to the monument would occur, if any do at all. It’s also not clear under what process the UDC will try to get community input. Commissioner Jim Crawford said he expects to hear from the UDC by the end of the year.
“Obviously, we do not want it to drag on forever. So, hopefully, we’ll hear between now and Christmas,” he said.
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