Ministers question history of Confederate Monument

Ministers question history of Confederate Monument

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - There is now an effort underway on the part of two ministers to discover the history behind "Fame," Salisbury's Confederate monument.

The monument was placed in the median in the 100 block of W. Innes Street at Church Street more than one hundred years ago.  It was placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and now how the women obtained the land from the City is raising questions.

"For us, we can't help but not overlook the environment of terror in which this statue was erected in this city over 100 years ago," said the Reverend Anthony Smith of Mission House. "One of the things that we've noticed in looking at the documents. the day that they city deeded the land over to the United Daughters of the Confederacy was August 6, 1908. Well, one of the things that we noticed quickly was that this was the anniversary of the lynching of three black men in Salisbury. Just two years prior to this."

WBTV previously reported on the 1906 lynching.

Three black men charged with the brutal murder of a prominent Rowan County family. The men were the family's sharecroppers. 
They were arrested and moved to Charlotte for their own protection.  Their trial started in July and in August, the men were moved back to Salisbury. 

"That night about 2000 people gathered around the jail and decided that justice would not wait," a local historian told WBTV several months ago in a story about the lynchings. "They went into the jail, pushed beyond the guards, opened the doors, and got the three suspects, bound them with heavy rope and took them down the street to the hanging tree where they were all three hanged and you could hear them saying no, we didn't do it all along the trail."

So, in an effort to find what they say is the truth behind the statue, Reverend Smith and Reverend Robin Tanner of the Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church went to the City of Salisbury to request public records relating to the transfer of land.

The request was made, but to their dismay, the pastors learned that the minutes from the City Council meetings between 1906 and 1909 are missing. That would include both the time of the lynching and giving of land for the statue.

"Fear has for too long divided us and it's time to be a people of courage and to embrace, yes the pain of our history, but also the promise of our present," Reverend Tanner told WBTV.

An article provided to WBTV that appears to be from the Carolina Watchman newspaper from August 12, 1908, indicates no correlation between the lynchings and the monument.

The article covered a meeting of the Salisbury Board of Alderman and states that the United Daughters of the Confederacy made an application for a "Suitable site whereupon to erect the Rowan County Confederate Monument."

It states that the monument "will be not only a great ornament for the city, but a perpetual tribute to and memorial to the patriotism and valor of the Confederate soldiers of Rowan County who fought so heroically for the rights and liberty of the people of the South and of the state of North Carolina."

In approving the measure, the article, quoting a resolution, says "the Board of alderman is glad of the opportunity to grant the application for such a praiseworthy and historic purpose."

The resolution continues and says that the monument will be under the perpetual care of the UDC "and its successors from generation to generation, subject to such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by said chapter and by the Board of Alderman of the City of Salisbury."

For these pastors, this all started after a pro Confederate flag protest at the monument on the Sunday before last. That's when flag supporters and flag protestors started debating and stories from the past came to light and then spilled over onto social media.

Those protests also led to Salisbury Police saying that any future protestors would have to stay off of the base of the monument and the median, and would have to have permits for demonstrations.

About a dozen people attended the council's meeting Tuesday hoping to talk about the monument, and holding signs that read "No fear, no fame."

Before going into a closed session, Mayor Paul Woodson said he thought it would come up for discussion in two weeks.

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