The calls to remove the Confederate memorial that is located on the Lawrenceville Square came from all sides on Sunday.

Both District Attorney Danny Porter, a Republican, and his Democratic Party opponent in this year’s election, Patsy Austin-Gatson, called for the monument to be removed from the grounds of the Gwinnett County Historic Courthouse during a protest rally on the square Sunday. So too did state Reps. Shelly Hutchinson and Gregg Kennard, Gwinnett school board member Everton Blair, soon-to-be-school board member-elect Tarece Johnson and Democratic Party county commission District 1 candidate Kirkland Carden.

Even the chairman of the Gwinnett County Historic Restoration and Preservation Board, Aaron Ragans, and board member Marlene Taylor-Crawford called for the monument’s removal.

“This monument to hate has no place in our county,” Ragans said. “I, like all of you here, would like to see it removed entirely, but given that state law is not on our side, we’ve got a plan. This monument needs to be moved and framed with context as to what exactly Confederate memorials served to do across this nation.

“And at this spot, we need a new monument to the lynching victims that lost their lives in this county (including) one, Charles Hale, who lost his life at this very corner in 1911.”

The Historical Restoration and Preservation Board is planning to call a special meeting to vote on sending to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners a recommendation to move the memorial. State law protects Confederate monuments from being destroyed, but officials can pursue efforts to move it.

Ragans said the date and time of the meeting is expected to be announced this week, and that it will be held online to allow for safe public participation during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. Officially, the board as a whole, has not taken a stance on the issue yet.

“We cannot speak on behalf of the Historical Restoration and Preservation Board, but we can speak as members of the board, so we stand in support,” Taylor-Crawford said. “So we want you to know we will fight with you until the very end.”

Sunday’s protest rally highlighted the broadest range of groups and individuals who support removal the memorial, which was erected in 1993 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Supporters of its removal wrapped a “Black Lives Matter” flag around it during the rally.

Johnson, who is a co-founder of the Alliance for Black Lives and a co-organizer of Sunday’s rally, said the event proved to be an opportunity to educate people about the history of the county, and particularly the Lawrenceville Square.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand there were actually lynchings in this exact area,” she said. “This monument that was put up in 1993 — the name of the monument is ‘Lest We Forget’ — it’s just such an offense to the movement we’re in today.”

Bipartisan support for removing the memorial

One of the most interesting twists is that both candidates for district attorney who will appear on the ballot in the November election are calling for the memorial’s removal.

Porter is believed to be the first Republican elected official in Gwinnett to publicly call for the monument’s removal.

“This needs to be removed because it implies agreement, it implies consent, by the county government, by the powers that be and I don’t think that’s right,” he said. “I believe it should be in the context of history, warts and all. It should not be destroyed or defaced, but moved and I’m here to support that.”

Austin-Gatson said the push to have the memorial removed from the historic courthouse’s grounds is part of an ongoing fight against systemic racism.

“It’s time for this to stop, it’s enough,” she said. “These kind of statues have to come down because we don’t need to glorify a racist past. What we need to do is move forward, got forward and do what needs to be done.”

They join Solicitor General Brian Whiteside, who is seeking a remedy from the Gwinnett County Superior Court to have the monument declared a public nuisance and order its removal. Whiteside has a court complaint, which states the monument has become a target for vandals, pending before Judge Tracy Mason.

Carden and former 7th Congressional District candidate Nabilah Islam helped give steam to the push to remove the memorial when they began a Change.org petition last month calling on commissioners to move the memorial, possibly to the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center in Buford. Carden said he plans to present the petition to the county commission at its July 28 meeting.

“It’s time for Gwinnett County to bury the myth of a lost cause once and for all and relocate this monument to a more appropriate location,” Carden said.

Legacy of a lynching looms over the Lawrenceville Square

During Sunday’s protest, a heavy emphasis was put on remembering the lynching of Charles Hale on the corner of Pike and Perry Streets on the Lawrenceville Square in 1911. During a part of the gathering where participants were asked to shout the names of African-Americans who have been killed recently — including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks — Hale’s name was added to the list as well.

A printout of a photo of Hale’s lynching, which is in the holdings of the Georgia Archives, was shown at the rally Sunday.

Blair, who became the first African-American elected to the Gwinnett County Board of Education in 2018, said students in the county’s school district should be taught about what happened to Hale and other victims of lynchings as part of a more inclusive curriculum that teaches the history of all ethnicities.

“I did not know who Charles Hale was when I grew up in Gwinnett County Public Schools,” Blair said. “That is a problem. The history that we all have been taught is a whitewashed and revisionist one.”

There is a push emerging to have a memorial to Hale and other victims of lynchings in Gwinnett erected in the county. Steve Babb with the Gwinnett Remembrance Coalition said there are at least three documented cases of African-Americans being lynched in the county. Hale’s death is the most recent, but two others occurred in the 1880s.

“We’re basically trying to remember the victims of lynchings here in Gwinnett,” Babb said of his group’s work.

That history of lynchings, and the fact that the Confederate memorial was erected a few yards away from where Hale was lynched, is one of the reasons why several participants in Sunday’s rally said the monument should be removed.

“The county commission failed us (in 1993),” Ragans said. “This monument went up on this street corner, where historic lynchings occurred, as a reminder — a reminder that African-Americans need to ‘remember their place’ in the hierarchy, thus emboldening those who see this as a rallying cry to the lost cause of the Confederacy.”

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

(12) comments

MarvinGardens

I've been a frequent commenter on this topic, in favor of removing these sorts of "lost Cause" monuments. Today I will tell my own story to better explain why I feel this way.

I'm a white Southerner who grew up in the Atlanta suburbs. My roots go back to colonial times. I have a great-great(-great?) uncle who fought for the Confederacy. We have a picture of him in his uniform. I don't know anything about his beliefs. That branch of the family were said to be poor farmers. As a teenager, my great-grandmother passed, and I was helping my mother sort through some of her personal effects. Folded up in books, I found a Confederate war bond for $100, a lot of money in those days, and various bank notes from the Civil War era. So it's possible that I have some moneyed ancestors who supported the Confederacy. The point is, I have Confederate heritage.

My parents were political moderates who taught me that discrimination on the basis of race was wrong. We did not use racist language in our house, nor fly the Confederate flag. Yet somehow, I came into adulthood with this idea that the Civil War was not primarily rooted in upholding slavery. Sure, slavery was one issue, but it wasn't the only issue, and it was really about states' rights and Northern Aggression, I thought. I later learned that this is the Lost Cause myth. It was my younger brother, who'd taken multiple history courses in college, who set me straight. Politically, he was and is more conservative than me, BTW. So he explained to me that slavery was the only issue that North and South became unable to compromise on. Years later, he lent me a history book, "Battle Cry of Freedom". I suggest anyone who supports keeping these monuments as-is, to read that book. I also suggest to google "alexander stephens cornerstone speech" without the quotes.

Monuments of this sort should be removed or replaced with more accurate markers of what transpired.

MissDaisy

I too am a white southerner, but grew up in deep south Georgia. My roots go back to pre-colonial times. My great grandfather was a Confederate private; but not a vey good one obviously. His records show he was either in a Union prison camp or in a hospital from being shot. He and his family were just poor whites.

Just a little bit of research shows that the war was over reasons other than just slavery. The discussion amongst honest, knowledgeable people is what priority slavery may have been as one of those reasons.

I expect the greatest reason for the war was money. In 1860 there was no income tax; all federal revenue was from tariffs. The southern states were paying approximately 80% of the tariffs, which mostly went to northern states. If the southern states left the Union, they would have taken millions in tax revenue. Even Abraham Lincoln campaigned in 1860, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,," Since only 7% of southerners owned slaves, why would the other 93% go to war if that was the only issue?

Too many of us mistakenly believe we can make value judgements about a time we know little about. We often interpret past events by popular culture. It is intellectually lazy or dishonest to blame the Civil War solely on the South and slavery.

MarvinGardens

"Since only 7% of southerners owned slaves, why would the other 93% go to war if that was the only issue?"

It wasn't the only issue. But it was the only issue they couldn't compromise on. And it wasn't just about slavery in the South. It was about expansion of slavery into the West, and about enforcement of fugitive slave laws in the North. Law and order was breaking down in the North, as abolitionists came into armed conflict with law enforcement over the capture of fugitive slaves. Some Northern jurisdictions were refusing to return fugitive slaves, angering the South. Meanwhile, some slaveholders asserted a right to take their slaves into any of the western territories, and still others claimed the right to take them into the North. There was a literal guerrilla war on the MO / KS border over attempts to expand slavery into Kansas. It wasn't just Abe Lincoln who saw that this situation was untenable. The South saw it too. It's why they seceded. You are correct that the North did not initially go to war to abolish slavery. But the South seceded because they perceived that slavery was under threat.

The slaveholders may have been in the minority, but they controlled the state governments, along with enough non-slaveholders who sympathized with slavery. That said, in some areas where most people did not keep slaves, the Confederate cause was less popular. Gwinnett county's delegates voted against secession. In Pickens county, the Union flag flew over the courthouse during the war. Sympathy to the Confederacy was largely tied to sympathy for slavery.

If you don't believe me, listen to some Confederate officials:

"The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution." -- Alexander Stephens, Vice President, Confederate States of America

The belief in inequality of the black people was widely held in the North too, but it was not a cornerstone or foundation of the USA. In fact, the opposite principle was foundational, "all men are created equal", even if it was not fully realized at the time. What did Mr. Stephens think about that founding principle? Let's ask:

"Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error." -- Alexander Stephens

Or let's ask South Carolina why they seceded:

"For many years these (fugitive slave) laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution."

"A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery." -- Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union

So, a little research will show that in truth, slavery was the immediate cause of Southern secession. It was not about tariffs. Flying a Confederate flag without proper context is flying the flag of a nation that was formed to preserve slavery. Erecting a "Lost Cause" type monument is honoring those who fought for the continuation of that nation.

MissDaisy

As I said the only debate is to where on the lists of causes of the War is slavery. The sub-issues: expansion of slavery, abolitionists, fugitive slaves, burning Kansas are all part of the slavery umbrella.

Reasons for secession was more than slavery. For context, South Carolina first sued to seceded from the Union. The Supreme Court ruled that secession was not proper in that case. However, in dicta they did say that succession might be appropriate in the right circumstances. Something similar that happened less that 100 years previously: the American Revolution. When a Representative, Abraham Lincoln addressed secession when he said, "Any people anywhere, being inclined and have the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better." To claim the few slaveholders absolutely controlled everybody else is nonsensical and condescending. Yes, Gwinnett's three delegates to the secession convention voted no. There were quite a few Unionist through the South. Even though the non-slaveholders were not considered as part of polite society, they were a proud, hard-headed, independent lot. They fought against an invading army (as they saw it) that was on their land.

Quoting Alexander Stephen does not negate that other causes existed. As far as the assumption of the equality of the races; what did Honest Abe have to say, "I am not,nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about an any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office,nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality."

Correct, a little research will show causes for the war other than slavery. Right back where we started. Context for anything, flag or otherwise, is a good thing.

Contextualization is judging what happened 150+ years ago by today's standards. Its possible to disagree with the motivation of one side of the war, but to recognize their devotion to duty, honor and sacrifice. Which is pretty much what happened after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Both side shook hands, appreciated each others' efforts and wanted to move on. It was not unusual for reconciled veterans for both sides to have joint reunions for years after the war ended. The Neo-Reconstructionist are trying to remake that period of history into something it was not.

MarvinGardens

"As I said the only debate is to where on the lists of causes of the War is slavery."

No, there is no debate. Slavery is way at the top. Go read the declarations of causes issued by some of the seceding states, in addition to the short section I quoted.

You are correct in pointing out that Lincoln did not enter the war for racial equality, or even to free the slaves. At the start of the war, many in the North did not want that. They wanted "the Union as it was". By our standards today, most whites then were probably racist. It is not my purpose here to judge them. I also did not claim that the slaveholders controlled everyone. I am saying that they exerted an outsized influence on the state governments, just as the moneyed classes exert an outsized influence today. And while Lincoln's goal was not initially to free the slaves, it can't be overstated that the South seceded to protect slavery.

"Its possible to disagree with the motivation of one side of the war, but to recognize their devotion to duty, honor and sacrifice."

Sure, and anyone who reads history will learn that. But with these monuments as they are, that's all we learn. Confederate leaders, unknown soldiers, or sometimes "all who fought" as in the present case, are venerated as having engaged in this noble defense of their homeland, and that's it. Given the causes of the war, in my opinion this is disrespectful to those whose ancestors were enslaved.

Retirement2019

The cancel culture strikes again. This time even Republicans have become pander bears. Finally having the banner of a marxist leninist group =BLM on county property is highly offensive.

LarryMajor

I'm stuck on why anyone would have an "End the Confederacy Rally" in 2020.

MissDaisy

If we erase all bad things from history, that means slavery never happened. Now we can quit talking about reparations.

Magic7

I find the Black Lives Matter sign strung across this monument extremely offensive. And Danny Porter, I'm extremely disappointed in you. I have supported you year after year, from election to election. I thought you had more integrity than this. I always thought of you as a man of strength who does not back down; as a man who stood up to political nonsense. But I guess I was wrong. You, of all people, have caved to the bullies. Shame on you.

jimbo1185

one would like to think of the historic preservation board as a non-biased entity, but thanks to the speeches of the chairman and one of the members we now know that this body is a political snake pit. and the poor district attorney - trying to show he is politically correct instead of staying politically neutral so everyone will think he approaches cases based on the evidence.

jimbo1185

placing a monument to a lynching is definitely a step in the wrong direction - how does this help eliminate reminders of a racist past?

ntstar4

This is getting to be ridiculous. Leave history alone. make new history without trying to undo the past. It over, time to move on

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