LAWRENCEVILLE – Removing Confederate monuments has dominated the news lately.
The Brunswick County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on whether to remove, relocate, contextualize or cover the statue, monument or memorial for the veterans of the Civil War currently located on the Brunswick County Courthouse Square. The hearing will be held on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Brunswick High School located at 2171 Lawrenceville Plank Road.
Supervisor Welton Tyler made a motion at the June board meeting to hold the public hearing, seconded by Dr. Alfonzo Seward and the motion was unanimously carried.
During the citizen comment period, Monica McMillan speaking for concerned citizens said, “Monuments are intended to embody a community’s ideas and values, and in the most powerful of circumstances can become a community’s spirit incarnate of which to rally around. Communities that build monuments are making a statement to others, to those both within or outside of their community, about which ideals are to be honored. Confederate monuments pay tribute to a dark chapter in our country’s history; a time when African Americans particularly did not enjoy much if any freedom in this country. Why should any community memorialize this ugly era with statues of Confederate leaders in public places in its parks or along its roadways or in our case, right in the heart of our county? The ideals and values on display in Brunswick County, Virginia public spaces should be reflections of our best-selves, and many of these public areas must be reclaimed and reformed into spaces for us to gather as a community without standing in the actual shadows of Jim Crow memorials masquerading as war monuments.
“The intent of this letter and petition is for all Confederate monuments and markers in Brunswick County to be removed and/or contextualized. The County of Brunswick should lead by example, remove one of Brunswick’s most prominent Confederate monuments, and put it in a museum or similar institutional installment with context so that we may be able to learn from our past and continue to grow into a more perfect union. Any contextualized monuments must include consultation from African American leaders within the community where the monument resides and must center on the perspective of the African American experience. Any context provided should be in effort to tell the whole story of its history. Furthermore, the community’s leaders are to choose an appropriate replacement structure to take the place of the current Confederate monument so as to equally welcome all who visit Brunswick’s public spaces,” McMillan stated.
McMillan said that Virginia as a Commonwealth is home to more Confederate monuments or memorials in public places than any other state with at least 223. She said this is due in part to its regional relevance during the Civil War. Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy.
“But this is also due to a state law enacted in 1904 which allows for localities to erect ‘monuments or memorials for any war or conflict’ while simultaneously forbidding any authorities or citizens to disturb them. This language was later clarified to explicitly include cities as ‘authorities’ prohibited from removing them, resulting in the conundrum that we presently have today. Only until a fully Democratic state government was elected in 2019 was any revision to this possible, and in March 2020 legislation was passed that would allow for localities to remove these monuments. This new law goes into effect July 1, 2020.”
McMillan said, “Confederate monuments serve as a rallying point for those that hold on to belief systems rooted in bigotry and racial supremacy and do not embody the ideas or values of Brunswick County, Virginia, or the United States of America. They were wrong when they were installed, and they are just as wrong today. They have no place in our public spaces and they must come down.”
The Confederate monument on courthouse square was dedicated on November 9, 1911, in memory of those who fought for the confederacy during the Civil War. It was reported that several thousand people attended the unveiling of the monument. Efforts began in 1905, at a Confederate veteran’s reunion in Lawrenceville, to raise funds to erect the monument by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
According to Brunswick County, Virginia 1720 – 2000 by Gay Neale, the statue cost $ 2,100, was made of granite from Dinwiddie County, stands twenty-six feet, eight inches tall, with the figure of a Confederate infantryman standing at the top.
Inscribed on the monument are the words: “In memory of the Confederate Heroes of Brunswick County, 1861 – 1865, Love Makes Memory Eternal.” The monument is surrounded by a wrought iron fence.
County Administrator Charlette T. Woolridge, Ph.D. said interested persons may appear and present their views at the above time and place. If you should need auxiliary aids, please contact the Office of the County Administrator at (434) 848-3107 at least five (5) days in advance of the public hearing.