MONROE – The Museum of the Waxhaws has offered to accept the Confederate soldiers monument at the historic courthouse, which has been a lightning rod for debate in recent months.
Gene Stowe, who serves on the Waxhaw museum’s board of directors, told Union County commissioners Sept. 21 that the monument would be part of a comprehensive educational display.
“Relocation of the monument is an opportunity to preserve and enhance historical understanding, not to erase it,” Stowe said. “The public square is a place of honor, not education. It is not designed for the level of text, audio and image material necessary for providing full context and information on the history of the monument and its period. That is the job of museums, especially local history museums.”
Stowe was among several people speaking during a public hearing about what to do with the monument. Commissioners did not engage in any debate or take action on the issue, but they listened to people talk about it for two hours.
Tracy Kuehler, a former county commissioner, prefers the monument stay put. She said the historic courthouse has been designated as a museum. She sees the monument as a teaching tool that initiates dialogue about the past.
“Why not keep the monuments where they are so that people can explain history to their kids,” Kuehler said, “so that we can have constructive conversation about how things were and the struggles that were endured.”
Surluta Anthony and Franco McGee, who serve on the Monroe City Council, explained why they believe the monument should be removed to promote unity.
“While history is definitely important, I think it’s better served in history books rather than cement slabs,” Anthony said. “Again we’re not dealing with folklore but we are dealing with reality. We are living in turbulent times – recession, COVID-19, racial awareness, racial unrest. Now is the time for unity. Now is the time for equality and justice for all people.”
While McGee said the monument represents “racism, hate and oppression,” others say it honors the soldiers who fought to protect their homes.
Paul Burr, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said commissioners can be swayed by compassion, propaganda or sentiment, but they don’t really have any options under North Carolina’s monument protection law.