Winston-Salem, the UDC, and a Confederate Monument

The Confederate Monument in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, gave the United Daughters of the Confederacy an ultimatum to move a confederate monument from its current spot or have it declared a public nuisance and the city will bring legal action to force a movement.

A side view of the monument showing another inscription.

Another inscription on the monument.

In this article from a local news outlet, we learn, “The Winston-Salem Journal reports the city’s mayor, Allen Joines, announced at Tuesday’s Emancipation Proclamation ceremony that the United Daughters of the Confederacy could face legal action if the group doesn’t comply. State law makes it difficult to remove monuments on public property, but the Confederate Soldiers Monument is on private property. Last week, someone wrote ‘cowards & traitors’ on the statue’s base. It was previously vandalized after the 2017 deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Considering that and the confrontations over Confederate monuments elsewhere, the city attorney believes it creates a public nuisance.”

The most recent defacing of the Winston-Salem monument.

This article tells us, “Citing a growing concern over public safety, the city of Winston-Salem has directed the group that owns the statue of a Confederate soldier in downtown to remove it by Jan. 31 or face possible legal action, Mayor Allen Joines said Tuesday.” As the article says, “The United Daughters of the Confederacy claims ownership of the statue, which was dedicated in 1905. The group has previously declined a city offer to move the statue from its spot on the corner of West Fourth and North Liberty streets to a section of Salem Cemetery, 513 Cemetery St., that is home to 36 Confederate graves. ‘We feel that is an honorable and appropriate location,’ Joines said.” According to Mayor Joines, “We’ve already had two instances of vandalism and, with the potential for violence, it is ([City Attorney Angela]Carmon’s) belief that the statue does create a public nuisance and therefore we are directing the Daughters of the Confederacy to remove it, and if they don’t, we’re prepared to file legal action to achieve that removal.” In discussing the letter she sent to the UDC, City Attorney Carmon said, “Given the number of incidents involving vandalism, the intensity of the most recent message left by vandals and the concern for public safety, I asked that they look at removing the statue by the end of January. I indicated a concern about potential breaches to the peace and the strong likelihood that, given the intensity of the message, that breaches of peace are likely to occur.” According to Carmon, “the city is not in a position to provide around-the-clock security at the statue site.” The city is able to take this action because the land on which the monument stands is public property. The article says, “The property on which the statue stands is owned by Winston Courthouse LLC, which converted the old courthouse into apartments in 2012.” The city council appears to be behind the move. “Council Member D.D. Adams said at Tuesday’s ceremony that the statue will be removed from its current location. ‘We’re trying to be nice, but in the heat of the night, people may come through like ninja warriors and take that statue down,’ Adams said.”

The previous defacing of the monument.

As this article tells us, the UDC finally responded. “The North Carolina division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy says it pledges to do everything in their power to see that the Confederate monument in downtown Winston-Salem remains in its existing location near the old Forsyth County Courthouse.” We find out, “In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the chapter said, ‘The North Carolina Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy, wishes to register our dismay at the recent actions and statements of the city of Winston-Salem regarding the Confederate memorial on the old courthouse grounds. The heavy-handed tactics of the city and its threat of legal action against us are as shocking as they are dishonorable. When so many real problems are facing Winston-Salem and its citizens, city officials would rather engage in a cheap political stunt and distraction. We wish for the memorial to remain in its place, where it has stood since it was dedicated in 1905, and will do everything in our power to see that it continues to remain.’ ” The city has already asked the UDC to move the monument, and they’ve refused. “Mayor Joines says the city had already requested that the United Daughters of the Confederacy move the statue on two occasions, but the group ignored the city’s requests. ‘The daughters chose to ignore our very quiet request and what I thought were very legitimate offers. We’re not acting heavy handed. We’re working to protect the citizens of Winston-Salem from potential violence that’s occurred in other cities across the country. This particular situation has changed since 1905. It’s now seen as a symbol of oppression and subjugation of a people that hurt many of our citizens. On the other hand, we certainly understand the way some groups feel about it, it’s historical,’ said Mayor Joines. ‘We feel like relocating to the Salem Cemetery is the ideal situation. It’s a dignified location where this particular monument, which was erected in the honor of the Confederate dead would be right there where there are 36 Confederate graves.’ ”

With this article we learn, “The Rev. Alvin Carlisle, the president of the Winston-Salem chapter of the NAACP, said his group remains adamant that the Confederate statue should be removed. ‘We try to be patient,’ Carlisle said. ‘We have been in contact with the city for about a year to talk about the need for the removal of the statue. It is certainly a blatant symbol of racism that has no place in the public square. I thought the compromise to have it place in the cemetery was an idea that we could tolerate.’ Carlisle said his group is in talks with the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity over strategies to get the statue removed. In addition to finding it objectionable as a symbol, Carlisle said, the statue has become a public nuisance because of safety concerns. ‘The dead soldiers that it represents were racist traitors,’ Carlisle said. ‘In Germany, they have no statues of Hitler. We feel that these statues were erected to intimidate African-Americans. That was their sole purpose.’ We also find there’s a new confederate wacko heritage group. “Meanwhile, a group calling itself Heirs to the Confederacy is already planning an event at the statue on Jan. 13, in support of keeping the statue in place. On its Facebook page, the group says it will meet first at the place in Chapel Hill where the ‘Silent Sam’ statue stood until it was torn down last August by protesters. After ‘paying homage to the boy soldiers,’ the group then plans to ride together to Winston-Salem to stand at the monument here from 2 to 5 p.m. Lance Spivey, the chairman of the board of the Heirs group, said it is a new organization formed as a way to unify groups supporting Confederate monuments. He said his group, which numbers some 30 members, is anti-racist while supporting keeping the statues in place. ‘These monuments are not there to remind anyone of slavery,’ Spivey said. ‘They are there to honor the courage of those men who fought … in one of the most terrible events in history. The monuments are so that we do not forget and it does not happen again.’ Spivey said his group plans to stand at the Winston-Salem monument and display Confederate flags, mostly the more-familiar stars and bars battle flag. The group does not carry firearms to events, he said. ‘We do not condone at all the initiating of any violence or the provoking of any violence,’ Spivey said. ‘But our standing rule is that if attacked, we defend ourselves with whatever force is necessary.’ ”

In an update, this article tells us the Winston-Salem portion of that planned rally was canceled at the request of the UDC. In addition to this article, it also tells us the city offered to pay to move the monument if the UDC agrees to moving it.

Here is a video giving a partial history of the monument, which was erected in 1905, shortly after the notorious Wilmington Riot of November,1898 [see here also] in which whites murdered at least 11 African Americans and burned out an African American-owned newspaper, while also conducting a coup d’etat in the city.

This is another case where the local government wants to move a monument, but people outside the city [the state UDC and the state law] are saying no. So outsiders are saying a local community has no right to determine who they will or will not honor, and are saying a private property owner has no right to determine what is on their privately owned property.

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10 comments

  1. Need to watch this case closely. Two monuments have been pulled down by mobs in the last eighteen months, both in North Carolina. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that this one is likely to be a target, as well. Even if this is on private property, I can see a legitimate public interest in moving this monument to a location where it would likely be less of a target for something similar, and (arguably) more appropriate in any case as a memorial to Confederate soldiers, than remaining where it is on (now) private property.

    1. I agree, Andy. That’s the city’s position as well because they’re concerned about public safety and the monument attracting people determined to pull it down if it stays where it is.

  2. Matthew Tenney · · Reply

    The mayor wants it removed but has no power to do so because it’s on private property. So they tell the public that they will not provide police protection, which is an open invitation for vandalism. When the vandals strike, the city then claims the statue is a public nuisance and will use that as a legal ploy to get it removed. What if the offices of the local newspaper were vandalized because of some controversial editorial, would the city refuse police protection and demand that the newspaper relocate? The city police ought to be humiliated that they cannot protect against simple vandalism. I’ll loan them a security camera if they don’t have one.

    This is a blatant attack on freedom of speech and we all ought to oppose it regardless of our position on the statues.

    1. Is it required for people who support confederate heritage to lie, mischaracterize, and simply make things up? Instead of posturing here, why don’t you pony up the security camera and take it to them? It’s easy to talk out of your hindquarters on the internet. It’s another thing to put your money where your mouth is. It is not an attack on freedom of speech, as the desire is not for the statue to disappear but to be put in a more appropriate and safer location. According to the mayor, the city is “not in a position to provide around-the-clock security at the statue site.”

      The keynote speaker at the monument’s unveiling was the former confederate cavalry officer and white supremacist Alfred Moore Waddell, who infamously said, “If you find the Negro out voting, tell him to leave the polls, and if he refuses, kill him, shoot him down in his tracks.” Before his leading role in the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, Waddell said, “We will never surrender to a ragged raffle of negroes even if we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.”

  3. Matthew Tenney · · Reply

    I’m a supporter of freedom of speech. Offering a security camera is hyperbole. The point was that protecting against vandalism for a single, small location ought not to be beyond the capability of the police.
    Apparently the city has had threats of violence. I consider that an act of terrorism and the police ought to call in whatever force is necessary to find the terrorists. A band of terrorists on the loose is of far more importance than a statue. Instead of doing that, they are going to accomplish the objectives of the terrorists for them.
    Finally, can you explain what Mr. Waddell said over 120 years ago has any bearing on this issue? Other than an appeal to emotion.

    1. No, you’re not.

      First of all, if you want to claim to be a supporter of free speech, then learn what is and is not a free speech issue. This is not. The UDC has the opportunity to continue to spread their “black folks stay in your place” message. The city doesn’t want to demolish the monument. They simply want to move it. I have the right to make a political speech. I don’t have the right to make that speech in the Rose Garden of the White House or before a Joint Session of Congress. I don’t have an unlimited right to choose where my speech happens. The same is true for the UDC. They get to put out their message. They don’t get to dictate to the city where the city will let them put that message out.

      Secondly, you don’t support free speech. You support only the speech you want. If you really supported free speech and demand the statue be left where it is, then you would support those who are opposed to the statue to express their disapproval through defacing it with spray painted political messages. In other words, you’re trying to have it both ways.

      If a threat is terrorism, then the monument itself is an act of terrorism because it is a threat to blacks to stay in their place or else. If we’re to accept your claim that a threat is terrorism, then the monument should be immediately demolished.

      Waddell’s bearing on the issue is easy. It’s the reason for the monument. The monument was erected in the wake of the Wilmington Race Riot, and a leader of that riot gave the keynote address for the monument. The message was for blacks to stay in their place. And it’s still the message. We know this because if the message was only to honor the confederate dead, the UDC would have no problem moving the monument to the cemetery, where there are in reality confederate dead who can be honored. But no. That’s because the monument’s message hasn’t changed.

  4. Matthew Tenney · · Reply

    If you were to have this comment of yours printed on brochures, I would support your right to pass them out on any “traditional public forum”. (Streets, parks, and sidewalks are considered open to public discourse by tradition and are designated as traditional public forums.)
    The Rose Garden, etc., etc. are not traditional forums and that makes a huge difference. Furthermore, if someone defaced your brochures or harassed you, I would demand that the police come to your assistance. No city government has the right to tell you to go hand out your brochures in a cemetery. It’s amazing that the mayor can say things like that with a straight face. You wrote: “They don’t get to dictate to the city where the city will let them put that message out.” Indeed, that isn’t true as long as it is a “traditional public forum”. Of course, the city is free to try to make the case that it isn’t a traditional public forum. Good luck with that approach.

    The tactics being used here are identical to those that have been continuously employed against religious groups, particularly Jewish and Christians. The tactic includes insisting over and over that religious symbols are hate symbols and should not be allowed in public places. So over the years, faith groups have had to go to court many times and by now, our nation’s First Amendment rights are fairly well defined.

    You wrote: “If you really supported free speech and demand the statue be left where it is, then you would support those who are opposed to the statue to express their disapproval through defacing it with spray painted political messages.” You ought to think more about this statement. Since you presumably support free speech, the logical conclusion is that you support this particular vandalism. And of course that vandalism is the very reason the city cites for demanding the removal of the statue.

    1. A third person’s private property is not a traditional pubic forum. This is not a free speech issue. Also, the government can designate areas that are free speech areas, and exclude other areas that might be traditional public fora, especially for public safety concerns. In the case of confederate monuments, many of them are indeed symbols of hate, as has been documented with historical evidence.

      I’m not surprised you have no understanding of what I said.

  5. Matthew Tenney · · Reply

    “A public forum is a place that has, by tradition or practice, been held out for general use by the public for speech-related purposes” (firstamendmentschools.org). My understanding is that tradition or long practice creates the public forum, not just public property. Nor can the government just close your messages on private property as shown by rebel flags flying on private property near my house. Not that the local government hasn’t tried. The city would have to prove to a very strict standard that removal of the statue falls under public safety. But they’re welcome to try. They should try.

    I asked the relevance of Mr Waddell’s speech and you spoke about Waddell’s “message”. But if this controversy isn’t over free speech, then his message is irrelevant. The more you talk about the message, the more you undermine your own argument that it’s not a free speech issue. The only issue is whether the removal is really necessary for public safety and the city has said almost nothing about that. The city ought to disclose the source of the vandalism and the credibility of unavoidable violence. And if they don’t know the source, how can they say the threat is credible?

    “I’m not surprised you have no understanding of what I said.” You don’t know me, so could we agree to keep this a more civil discourse?

    1. A third-party’s private property is not a public forum, and it doesn’t matter what happened there before the third party acquired it. The monument is not on ground owned by the UDC, so they don’t get a say in how that property is used. Those flags near your house are placed by the people owning the property, not by someone else invading that property and putting flags on it. The city can declare the monument to be a public nuisance, and since it’s on private property they can bring legal action to force its removal.

      You’re wrong about Waddell’s message being irrelevant. It’s why the monument was in that location to begin with. That’s why if the UDC wants to honor the confederate dead with it, moving it to the cemetery where there are actually confederate dead is the appropriate thing to do.

      At this point I’m repeating myself, and that’s the signal this has gone as far as it’s going to go.

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