In numerous counties across North Carolina, Confederate Monuments occupy public spaces, including prominent placement on courthouse grounds. Confederate Monuments project the legacies of slavery and white supremacy; they are and are intended to be cultural symbols of racism; most of which were erected decades after the Civil War during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. Those guarding the entrance of courthouses were intended as powerful messages of terror and injustice to all Black people who entered. They negate the very ideal of equal justice for all. That is their purpose.
The North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (NC CRED) has called for the removal of Confederate monuments in public spaces. We believe such monuments have no legitimate place on public property and especially not inside or in front of courthouses. In 2017, NC CRED passed a resolution advocating for the removal of such symbols of white supremacy from court spaces. Earlier this year, NC CRED wrote a letter to NC Chief Justice Cheri Beasley asking her to remove the statue of former Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin, a notoriously cruel slave owner, from the NC Court of Appeals building and his life-size portrait from the place of honor it holds above the bench of the North Carolina Supreme Court. The State has removed the statute, but his portrait remains, awaiting the recommendation of a committee appointed by former Chief Justice Martin.
The recent murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and other Black people are shining a bright spotlight on many of the issues NC CRED has been grappling with for years. We are encouraged by the hundreds of thousands of people throughout North Carolina and nation who have gathered to demonstrate and protest against the injustices, structural racism, and white supremacy intrinsic in our institutions and culture. We are also encouraged by the number of monuments throughout our state that already have been removed. We are hopeful that this is a true tipping point in the fight against systemic racism and inequality.
NC CRED is well-positioned to take a lead role in this campaign to complete the removal of Confederate Monuments from public spaces; their very existence gives lie to our claim of equality and justice.
Campaign to Remove Confederate Monuments Committee
As a follow-up to a panel discussion webinar hosted by NC CRED on July 15, entitled: “Balancing the Scales: The Injustice of Confederate Monuments in Public Spaces,” NC CRED decided to appoint a committee to lead an education-based campaign to eliminate Confederate monuments from our public spaces, beginning with those sharing space with county and state courthouses. Duke Law School Professor Jim Coleman agreed to chair the Committee. The Committee will be comprised of NC CRED Commission members, historians, college and university students, and other North Carolinians. After organizing itself, the Committee will undertake a statewide public education campaign to support and encourage local communities to remove these monuments from their public spaces.
Inaugural Committee Members
Jim Coleman, Professor, Duke University School of Law (Chair)
James Williams, Retired Public Defender, NC CRED Co-Founder and Board Chair
Stephen Raburn, Executive Director, NC CRED
Kristie Puckett-Williams, Statewide Campaign for Smart Justice Manager, ACLU of NC
Robert Dowling, Retired Nonprofit Executive
Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President, NAACP North Carolina
Megan Murless, Student, University of North Carolina
Elizabeth Hambourger, Senior Attorney, The Center for Death Penalty Litigation
To identify, document the history of, and remove all Confederate Monuments currently erected on courthouse grounds in the state of North Carolina.
- Create a complete and accurate public catalog of all Confederate statues, monuments, portraits, and other symbols on courthouse grounds and inside courthouses in North Carolina;
- Compile an accurate history of these objects, including when they were erected; who erected them; statements made as part of any campaign to create, construct, erect, and dedicate them, including when available transcripts of speeches and statements made at their dedication, and copies of all published or private accounts of their dedication, including photographs;
- Sponsor public events, including lectures, seminars, and conferences to educate the public on the history of Confederate Monuments in North Carolina;
- Form coalitions with other organizations to develop a comprehensive legislative and legal strategy to empower local communities to remove Confederate Monuments from their public spaces;
- Serve as a resource for local communities and groups attempting to remove Confederate Monuments;
- Create and maintain a website that can serve as a State Clearinghouse for information on Confederate Monuments in North Carolina, including a calendar of public events, articles, books, and media coverage, proposed legislation, successful local campaigns.
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