Originally published in the Autumn 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 60, printed October 28. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
By Phil Wilayto
The small town of Pittsboro, N.C, has become a flashpoint in the ongoing battles over Confederate monuments. The multiracial county seat of about 4,300 people, located 34 miles west of Raleigh, has had a statue of a Confederate soldier standing for more than 100 years outside the Chatham County courthouse. This past August, county commissioners voted 4-1 to move the statue and asked the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which donated it in 1907, to come up with a plan for its removal.
If nothing is agreed on by Nov. 1, commissioners say they will make their own plans to remove it. The UDC has refused to cooperate, saying a state law forbids the county from removing the statue.
So almost every week, groups of neo-Confederates have been coming to Pittsboro to protest the expected removal of the statue, gathering along busy streets to wave the Confederate battle flag. And every week antiracists show up to let them know they’re not welcome in Pittsboro.
A few weeks ago, the Virginia Flaggers contributed to the growing tension by erecting a large Confederate flag across the street from a predominantly Black middle school named for George Moses Horton, an enslaved poet.
Saturday, Oct. 19, was a big day for the dueling protests. According to the Raleighbased News & Observer, “roughly 30 people representing members of several extreme farright and neo-Confederate groups,” including the white supremacist League of the South, gathered to support the Confederate statue.
Opposing them were “about 200 members of antiracist and progressive groups” who held a march called “Pittsboro is No Place for Hate and then stood across the street from the pro-Confederates. The day passed with some shoving and pushing, but apparently no arrests.
One of the anti-racist protesters was Heather Redding, who has been actively involved in anti-racism movements in North Carolina,
“Removing and relocating confederate monuments is one of many ways our nation can begin to engage in reparations and healing,” Redding told the Defender. “For too many, the Civil War never ended and they are still waging a cultural war against anyone who doesn’t buy into Lost Cause propaganda.
“For others, the ripple effects of our history of slavery and Jim Crow are still being felt and are still causing harm. We can’t separate our nation’s racially violent past from the ways Black communities continue to experience inequities. From the classroom to incarceration, we are still far from living in a racially equitable society.
“Until we stop venerating the confederacy, and until we are ready to have an honest conversation about white supremacy in America, this nation will never heal.”