An openly white supremacist President and stunning violence from white supremacists around the country has reignited a debate about this country’s history and how we remember it. In Georgia, discussions about Confederate monuments — and whether or not they should stay up — have prompted protests in Atlanta and Augusta.
Leaders from around the state have had a range of responses, with the likes of U.S. Sen. David Perdue and civil rights icon Andrew Young advocating for the statues remaining in place, while the NAACP of Georgia and descendants of the Vice President of the Confederacy, calling for the removal of the statues. Former Gov. Roy Barnes even weighed in on the matter in a blog post on his law firm’s website.
Andrew Young told NPR’s Morning Edition he supports the Stone Mountain carvings of three Confederate leaders staying up.
“That is a tremendous carving. And I don’t want to see that destroyed. I don’t care who it is,” he said.
Young’s perspective is that there are more pressing issues — issues of “life and death,” that should take precedence over “some stupid monument.”
Sen. Perdue has also advocated that the monuments stay in place.
“We’re gonna find out if the community wants to take these down. But the reality is that they should probably stay up. But add context to it,” Perdue told 11 Alive. It should be noted that Perdue has been a vocal supporter or Trump and his policies.
The NAACP of Georgia has advocated for the removal of Confederate statues and monuments.
“We, as the descendants of the Americans that were victims of the barbaric attacks of slavery which were perpetrated by the Confederate States of America, believe that it is past time to remove those symbols from government properties,” said Phyllis Blake, president of the NAACP Georgia state conference, during a press conference.
Dr. Beulah Nash-Teachey, the President of the Augusta-Richmond chapter of the NAACP, told WRDR Channel 12 News that the August rally against the Confederate monument is based on several years of work to have the statues in their city removed. She notes it is troubling that one statues, for instance, reads, “No nation rose so white and fair. None fell so pure of crime.”
The descendants of Alexander H. Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy, sent an open letter to Gov. Deal also advocating for the removal of Confederate monuments. This includes monuments to their ancestor currently housed at the U.S. Capitol.
“Confederate monuments need to come down. Put them in museums where people will learn about the context of their creation, but remove them from public spaces so that the descendants of enslaved people no longer walk beneath them at work and on campus,” brothers Alexander Stephens and Brendan Stephens wrote.
When former Gov. Roy Barnes removed the Confederate flag symbol from Georgia’s state flag it came with a compromise that no Confederate statues or monuments could be removed without the state’s permission. This has prompted a call from local municipalities that they should decide the fate of the statues.
Barnes recently responded to the events in Charlottesville and the ongoing debates, criticizing the president’s response and calling for the monuments to be placed in more context of what the Confederacy actually stood for.
“The carvings of Lee, Davis and Jackson shouldn’t be blown off the side of Stone Mountain, but there should be a telling of the story in truthful terms and not the mythical terms of Gone With The Wind,” Barnes wrote. “Truth is truth and only the complete history should be told. We should examine each of the memorials and street names in this context.”
In light of recent events, current Gov. Nathan Deal is expecting that state law to get another look from state legislators during the 2018 legislative session, however would not comment on his position on the matter.
“There are many facets of it,” Gov. Deal told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The one that’s got the most attention lately has been the prohibition on local governments being able to make independent decisions about monuments and flags within their jurisdictions. I think they [the state legislature] will give it a serious look.”