RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Many Confederate monuments in North Carolina were erected many decades after the Civil War – in times that were were full of strife, tension and division.
Historians say the anger shown by protesters tearing down a Confederate monument in Durham was similar to the anger felt by Confederates after the Civil War ended in 1865.
“Particularly in the South what you have going on is state governments trying to reassert their leadership,” said Sal Mercogliano, associate history professor at Campbell University.
Mercogliano says anger lasted and manifested itself in tributes to the Confederacy.
“Some of the things they were trying to do is show that it wasn’t a pointless fight. So one of the things they focused on a lot is commemorating those Confederate soldiers,” said Mercogliano.
A Confederate monument at the North Carolina Capitol was dedicated in 1895, 30 years after the war had ended.
“The year 1898 was a year of tremendous white supremacist violence against African Americans in an attempt, a successful attempt to destroy black influence on politics,” said NCCU History Professor Jerry Gershenhorn.
The statue called “Silent Sam” on UNC’s campus, memorializing UNC students who fought and died for the Confederacy, was built in 1913.
The monument torn down in Durham was built in 1924, during the re-emergence of the KKK.
“Whites controlled public space, so African Americans had no opportunity to memorialize or commemorate their role in history,” said Gershenhorn.
When these statues went up, the treatment of African Americans was at a low with Jim Crow laws in effect.
No matter what happens to the statues, both historians agree on one thing.
“You can never erase history, just by removing a memorial you don’t remove history. The history is always there,” said Mercogliano.
Mercogliano also says removing Confederate statues creates a slippery slope of who in our history is appropriate to memorialize.
He brought up Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves but was a founder of our country.