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Public Hearing On Confederate Monuments At NC Capitol

Ron Cogswell / Flickr
Statue of Henry Lawson Wyatt, Confederate soldier, on the capitol grounds in Raleigh.

A public meeting is being held Wednesday in Raleigh so citizens can voice their opinion on a proposal by Governor Roy Cooper to relocate three confederate monuments from the State Capitol Grounds in Raleigh to a nearby Civil War battle site.  The governor made the request last year after a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and a group of protestors toppled a confederate statue in Durham.  

Under state law, The North Carolina Historical Commission must approve the relocation of any such monument on public property.  A study committee holding today’s meeting will report to the commission next month.   Joining us now to talk about more about it is Jeff Tiberii, the capital bureau chief for WUNC radio.

Marshall Terry:  So who do these monuments honor specifically, Jeff?

Jeff Tiberii:  These are three Confederate monuments that stand on the old Capitol grounds and they honor - it's part of a Civil War battlefield and they came under scrutiny as you mentioned as part of a national conversation that percolated last fall after the violence in Charlottesville. You know whether or not there is an appetite to really engage in this latest cultural war here, a culture war here in North Carolina really remains to be seen. I would expect today that we're going to hear a lot of strong opinions as you can only anticipate on both sides of this conversation [in] this historical debate.

Marshall Terry: These monuments, they've generated a lot of intense debate following Charlottesville.  Has that continued since then?

Jeff Tiberii:  I would say limitedly so. There was obviously the incident in Durham last August where a group of protesters toppled a Confederate statue, a Confederate monument. One of the observations I had is that it felt like a lot of people understood a little bit better that many of these monuments that went up across the state did not do so in the years to immediately follow the Civil War. Not in the 1860s or 70s, but similar to the one that was pulled down in Durham, went up in the 1920s. This was part of the Jim Crow South. This was part of you know an intimidation tactic and went up at a time when many of the Civil War veterans, almost all of the Civil War veterans, had already passed.

Marshall Terry:  How prominent are the monuments on the capitol grounds in Raleigh?

Jeff Tiberii:  That’s a good question. I think that perhaps the most prominent is a monument of George Washington which is conspicuously small for George Washington. It's only like a six or seven foot monument. These Confederate monuments are not all that prominently displayed. They certainly do vary in size. I don't know if they necessarily vary in the way they sting.

Marshall Terry:  What's the most controversial aspects of these monuments in Raleigh? Is it just that they exist period? Do they have racist language from the time period written on them?

Jeff Tiberii: I think that it is probably merely the symbolism of it and the fact that there are these monuments. I don't think it's the language, at least not from what I've heard from those who are demanding that [they] come down so much as it is what these monuments simply represent.

Marshall Terry: What happens next?

Jeff Tiberii: The meeting today is going to last likely three hours, it could go a little bit beyond that. I would expect to hear from dozens and dozens of speakers. It's possible that will reach 100 or 200. What's been set up is that the speakers [are] going to go for about a minute. This five member panel is going to report to the full historical commission. That's next month. And then from there that historical commission will make potentially some sort of recommendation within the next two or three months to state lawmakers.