North Carolina City Removes Confederate Statue From Historic Courthouse

March 13, 2019 by Dan McCue
The Forsyth County Courthouse is a three-story limestone-sheathed building located in downtown Winston-Salem, the county seat of Forsyth County. (NPS.gov)

The city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina removed a Confederate statue from the grounds of an historic courthouse Tuesday morning, bringing an end to a legal battle with the preservationist United Daughters of The Confederacy.

The 30-foot high monument had stood on the grounds of the former Forsyth County Courthouse since its dedication in 1905. It featured a granite statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier resting his rifle stock atop a base and column.

A small group of onlookers cheered as the statue was lifted off the pedestal with a large crane and placed on a flatbed truck. Officials said a city construction crew planned to remove the pedestal and base by the end of the day.

The plan is for the statue to be put into temporary storage until a site can be prepared for it at the privately-owned Salem Cemetery, site of the graves of at least 36 Confederate soldiers and William Robertson Boggs, a Confederate army general.

“We realize that there are very strong feelings on both sides of this issue, so what we’ve tried to do is devise a solution that recognizes both sides,” said Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines in an interview with the Associated Press.

He described the cemetery as “a very dignified and appropriate location for the statue.”

Like other Southern states, North Carolina is home to scores of Confederate monuments, many of them in parks, public squares and, as in this case, outside courthouses. A 2015 North Carolina law largely prohibits the permanent removal of Confederate statues from public land.

What made this case different is that the old courthouse property had passed into private hands several years ago, and the building itself now houses apartments.

The United Daughters of The Confederacy unsuccessfully argued in court that the terms of the sale of the courthouse left the statue under the ownership of the county, it was protected from removal by state law.

The county disagreed and said the owner of the apartments wanted the statue removed. In January, a judge sided with the officials and allowed the statue removal to go ahead.

As the statue came down, Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that Winston-Salem took a brave step forward by removing a living symbol of the Confederacy.

“This monument’s transfer is a respectful solution that ensures access without erasing history and maintains public safety,” Beirich said.

Since the 2015 Charleston church massacre, in which nine members of a Bible study class were killed by avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof, 115 Confederate monuments have been removed from public spaces throughout the South.

“These actions do not mean that the lessons of history will be forgotten, but what was removed in Winston-Salem today only served as a reminder of hate, intimidation, and divisiveness,” Beirich said. “Our hope is that other communities follow Winston-Salem’s lead by holding honest debates about our history and finding ways to memorialize the South’s real heroes.”

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