Public debate continues over Confederate monument

Joseph Brown | The ItemProtesters fight for change in the shadows of a Confederate monument at the Walker County Courthouse last month. The monument, which was erected 91 years after the conclusion of the Civil War, was pushed into public light due to vandalism. 

Across the country, Confederate monuments are being taken down. At Monday morning’s Commissioners Court meeting, over a dozen local citizens called for action towards the removal of the one that sits on the grounds of the Walker County Courthouse.

The monument, which was erected in 1956 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, was thrusted into public light last month amid racial unrest following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. County commissioners have remained quiet, failing to even put the item up for discussion in its past two meetings — despite hours of discussion in the citizens input period of the meeting.

“It is a matter of record that this monument was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1956 as a way to rally community resistance against desegregation, not as an innocent memorial to local veterans of a past war,” Dr. Brian Graiser told commissioners. “No amount of historical massaging is going to alter that fact.”

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. However, unlike other Confederate monuments and statues across the country, Walker County’s stone does not pay tribute to a specific person, but merely ‘Confederate Patriots.’

“This public space is defiled by a statue honoring those who took up arms against their own country, who did so to perpetrate slavery,” said Huntsville resident Claudia Garcia. “It is not a coincidence that this monument was erected in 1956, during the Civil Rights movement, to establish white supremacy and terrorize the Black community. It is not the time to glorify these traitors.”

While the majority of those who spoke supported the removal of the monument from public land, there were two who voiced opposition to any action and asked for the monument to stay.

“I say we let the monument stand for the simple fact that history repeats itself over and over,” said Huntsville resident Dale Morningstar. “If we fail to remember history, then we will commit the same mistakes again.”

Others who spoke proposed that separate monuments should be constructed around the city instead of removing the monument.

No action was taken on the issue by commissioners.

NEXT MEETING

The next scheduled meeting of the Walker County Commissioners Court is set for July 13 at the Walker County Storm Shelter.