The Confederate Soldiers Monument
The Confederate Soldiers Monument stands outside the Old Durham County Courthouse in Durham, North Carolina. Paid for by a percentage of local taxes collected by the county, the monument was erected in 1924 and dedicated on May 10, 1924, amid a great deal of fanfare, with many Confederate veterans and Confederate sympathizers, including members of the Daughters of the Confederacy, reportedly in attendance. In light of the history of white supremacy associated with the nation's Confederate memorial-building projects and the history such monuments commemorate, the Confederate Soldiers Monument in Durham is tied up in ongoing debates about how to remember and interpret difficult American history. The Confederate Soldiers Monument made headlines across the country when protesters succeeded in toppling the statue in 2017 in response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier that year. Durham's Confederate Soldiers Monument can be contextualized within the larger contemporary movement towards removing Confederate monuments, in many cases successfully re-framed by activists and scholars as symbols of white supremacy, from public spaces.
Backstory and Context
An extensive celebratory program marked the monument's unveiling on May 10, 1924, as detailed in the Durham Morning Herald. Distinguished speakers included Judge R.H. Sykes, who urged his fellow citizens to pressure the state legislature into providing greater pensions for living Confederate veterans. During the ceremony, Durham city mayor J. M. Manning declared "this day, May 10, 1924, has been set aside to honor the memory of the Confederate soldier, whether living or dead. The men who, with heroic patriotism, followed the destinies of Lee and Jackson. Men who fought for the cause they knew was right, the great principles of states rights as enunciated in the Constitution of the United States, and was, and is now, the bulwark of American liberty." Following these speeches, representatives from different white schools in the area placed wreaths on the statue, and a large dinner was held in the Y.M.C.A. for Confederate soldiers and members of the Daughters of the Confederacy. As Cynthia Mills and Pamela Simpson noted, the Daughters of the Confederacy played a prominent role in organizing the construction of Confederate memorials across the South.
white supremacist activities in Charlottesville were galvanized by the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.