A memorial marker to the Confederacy that has sat on the north side of the Walker County Courthouse for more than six decades has become a heated topic of debate within the local community.
For some, the monument is a painful reminder of their ancestors’ enslavement and systematic racism. For others, it is a memorial for ancestors who died in the war.
As the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers continues to unfold across the country, some residents in Walker County requested the movement of the monument to a private location where people could choose to see it if they wished. The request came during the public comments for Monday’s Commissioners Court meeting.
Commissioners remained quiet on the matter, since proposed action was left off of the meeting’s agenda. However, some in attendance requested that the decision be placed on the next meeting’s agenda, which is scheduled for July 6.
Local Black Lives Matter President Nia Imani Williams said removing the monument could be one of the first steps towards unity in Walker County.
“Contrary to popular belief, this monument was not erected to preserve the truth of the Confederacy’s history. Instead it was a symbol erected by a white supremacist organization to push back against the challenges of Jim Crow, that had occurred over two years prior in the Brown vs the Board of Education decision,” Williams said. “A monument dedicated to upholding the values of slave owners sends a distinct message to the African Americans in our community and the rest of the world.”
Walker County’s monument was erected in 1956, decades after the Civil War. However, for some like Sue Hardy, the monument serves as a reminder to how far we have come as a country.
“Destroying or taking away this monument does nothing,” Hardy said. “History is a living thing … it does not die and one can not erase it. History does not go away and it will not change. We must remember what happened to ensure we do not repeat it.”
Huntsville High School junior Kathleen Williams has been one of the key forces behind the movement to remove the monument, launching an online petition that has garnered over 3,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
“This monument does not represent the values of the American people or the people of Walker County,” Williams said. “This monument is a gross example of the continuous racial injustice in our community … sitting on county property outside of a building that claims to stand for justice.”
Retired Navy Reserves veteran Lee Roy Nance of Brazos County responded by saying that the monument pays tribute to men like his ancestors, who through their service and valor “fought against a tyrannical invading army that pillaged our homes and threatened the lives of millions in the south.”
“Those men were just defending their homeland and defending their newly adopted nation, much like George Washington was defending his new nation,” Nance said.
Williams said she would like to see the monument relocated to a museum or another location where it could be framed with context.
The Walker County Commissioners Court also:
• approved $49,900 for video/ audio equipment for the Walker County Storm Shelter and the commissioners courtroom in an effort to provide a live stream of the weekly meetings.
• approved a $12,500 purchase of a bulldozer from the Texas Facility Commission.
The next scheduled meeting of the Walker County Commissioners Court is set for July 6 at the county storm shelter.