Winston-Salem Continues Nationwide Trend of Removing Confederate Monuments

Winston-Salem, North Carolina is the latest locale to remove a symbol of racism and white supremacy. The city took down a statue that was constructed in 1905 in honor of the enslavement-supporting system that caused the state to join the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The statue was eventually removed because the property on which it stands, a former courthouse, was turned into new apartments that are private property the Associated Press reported. North Carolina is home to 95 or more Confederate monuments in public places other than cemeteries, according to the AP. Following the removal of Confederate statues across the South, North Carolina passed a law in 2015 which effectively prohibited statues from being removed from public property. The 30-foot tall statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier will be moved to the historic Salem Cemetery.

In the South, at least 110 monuments have been removed since 2015 following nationwide calls to remove the statues. Despite the removals, the South is littered with “more than 1,700” statues, according to Smithsonian Magazine, which reported the findings of a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report.

The SPLC has an online, geolocated database which features information on all remaining statues, many of which are “protected by state laws in the former Confederate states,” the watchdog group said. “Others are shielded by civic leaders who refuse to act in the face of a strong backlash by white Southerners who are still enthralled by the myth of the 'Lost Cause' and the revisionist history that these monuments represent.”

The death of Confederate monuments continues, despite a conservative inclination to keep the symbols of white supremacy alive. Confederate monuments were an important part of the electoral campaigns of two Republican gubernatorial candidates in Virginia — Corey Stewart, who lost to Republican nominee Ed Gillespie, who then lost in the 2017 general election. To prove that the Confederacy was truly dead, Stewart — who prides himself a supporter of the Confederacy and once served as Virginia chairman for Donald Trump’s campaign — lost the Senate race in 2018 to Democratic incumbent Tim Kaine by a 15-point margin.

The 2017 Virginia loss stung for Republicans, mainly because preserving Confederate monuments was not only championed by Stewart, but by the most important Republican in the country. President Donald Trump, a lifelong New Yorker whose grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1885 nearly a quarter century after the Civil War ended, said that the removal of Confederate statues was an effort to “take away our culture.” Trump's father, Fred Trump, was arrested at a 1927 Ku Klux Klan rally in Queens, though he was later released without charges.

But the South’s social culture has been changing for centuries. First, there was enslavement, which removed the value of human lives based on skin color. Then Jim Crow, a political system that bypassed the law by creating a two-tiered legal system for whites and Blacks — one in which white crimes against the oppressed were ignored, while legal slights against the white population were cause for the fullest punishments under the law.

The years following the abolition of segregation didn't restore equality, but instead made things worse. As the SPLC noted in its Confederate monuments database, the South went on a monument construction spree at the turn of the 20th century — decades after the Civil War ended. The second wave of “Confederate pride,” where schools and roads were named for Confederate leaders, peaked as the Civil Rights Movement called for equal rights among Black Americans in the South.

Modern white supremacy is rooted in keeping the spirit of the Confederacy alive, which is one of the reasons for backlash whenever any monument removal is proposed. However, there's a positive sign for anyone hoping that the monuments to hatred are removed: you have company. Onlookers came to cheer the removal of the statue in Winston-Salem. As one onlooker told the Winston-Salem Journal, “Confederacy is hate, and we don't need it at the courthouse. There's too much hate in the world anyway. I'm glad this day has come.”

About the Author

Jeremy Binckes is an experienced writer and editor who has reported on news, politics, culture and sports. He was most recently a news editor at Salon, and has written articles for a number of publications.