Removing the Confederate monument from in front of the Pitt County Courthouse is only the beginning of change that is needed in the community, activists who advocated for its removal said.
The 106-year-old, 27-foot-tall monument was removed in two phases on Monday. The first attempt, during the early morning hours, only removed the statue because malfunctioning equipment caused delays. Removal of the remaining portions started at 9 p.m. and was completed about 1 a.m. Tuesday, according to a county news release.
Part of the original foundation remains, which has been fenced off for safety, and will be cleared within the coming days. The area where the monument stood will be returned to a natural state as part of the courthouse lawn.
Under former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, a law was passed that prohibited the removal of monuments until a proposed location of the same significance is submitted and approved by the North Carolina Historical Commission. An exemption is allowed if the monument is declared a threat to safety. Pitt County Manager Scott Elliott made such a declaration before the county Board of Commissioners voted to remove the monument on June 15.
Moving the statue is a step in toward creating a nation free from bigotry, said Calvin Henderson, president of the NAACP Pitt County Branch.
Henderson said the statue should be moved to a more appropriate place because it does not represent the history of all people.
“I would say relocate it to some other appropriate area, like a museum or cemetery where they have many tombs that represent confederacies that fought in the Civil War,” he said. “I think it would be well fitting to place it in such an area; I would even highly recommend a cemetery in the area.”
Removing the statue from in front of the courthouse represents progress, Henderson said. Young people of all races are coming together to fight for change and he said it is important to listen to them, he said.
“We’re living in a day and an age where it is time we try to move forward and become a nation that’s united and free from inequity and bigotry in order to represent change and progress,” Henderson said. “People united together fighting for justice and freedom for all people regardless of race, creed or color — I think this would represent progress.
“Our young people today, they are standing up and they are crying out for change, and I think that this is a change and a step in the right direction.”
Henderson said the statue “represents hate and racism and a history of white supremacy and black suppression in our country” and now is the time to move it from county property.
“I feel it is important because we have to begin to look at things from a different view and from a different outlook in 2020,” he said. “To leave it there would be a continuous step back into an unfavorable history.”
Dedan Waciuri is the founder of Mapinduzi, an organization “dedicated to training, developing, and advancing the interest of Black and Brown people,” according to its Facebook page. He also is an organizer for the Coalition Against Racism.
“We know that the statute has symbolic reasoning behind it; we know that is stands for hatred, it stands for domestic terrorism and brutality that was waged on black, oppressed people,” Waciuri said. “But taking the statue down does not alleviate the main issues that we have here in Greenville, North Carolina.”
Solutions must be found to address higher poverty levels among people of color, inadequate healthcare systems and deprivation of resources, Waciuri said.
Don Cavellini, Pitt County Coalition Against Racism co-chairman, said the statute is intimidating to anyone who goes into the courthouse as it is a symbol of slavery and the defense of slavery.
“So we’re glad it’s being taken down, but it’s simply a symbol,” he said. “We would want the very things that oppress people every single day to change. The systematic racial nature in education, judicial health systems and jobs that’s what needs to change not just symbols.”
In previous discussions it was suggested the monument be moved to the Alice F. Keene Park on County Home Road, where it would be part of a greater exhibit about the county’s role in the Civil War. It also has been suggested that it be donated to the privately held Eastern Carolina Village and Farm Museum, which is located near the park.
The museum board on Tuesday released a statement that the statue doesn’t comply with its mission.
“The mission of the Eastern Carolina Village & Farm Museum is to preserve and interpret architectural and agricultural life in Pitt County and eastern North Carolina from 1840-1940,” the statement said.