After calls for removing Confederate statues across the country, some South Carolina lawmakers suggest expanding the main monument to the C.S.A. on the state capital grounds.
The idea is to expand the Confederate monument already there, by adding walls alongside it bearing the names of African American Confederates.
Representative Mike Burns (R- Greenville) says the bill he’s set to pre-file to get this plan in motion is based on the stories he’s heard of African American Confederate cooks and volunteers who served. He says he’s researched archives and found about 300 of them, based on the pensions they requested.
“Some of it’s bad. Some of it’s good, and if we can bring out this truth and incorporate into the future then we can heal some of this rift that we’ve got going about the monuments,” Burns says.
Burns says it’s about bringing out a “historic truth” that hasn’t been told and recognizing black soldiers for the Confederacy.
“First it was the flag, then the monuments, then the schools, and then the American flag we’re seeing all the flap about it every day on who’s going to stand and who’s going to kneel, who’s going to do what, and we’ve got to find a way to get over this. And this is really genuinely an effort to help,” Burns says.
But another Senator from Richland County, Darrell Jackson (D- Richland), is against the proposal. He would rather there be a monument for Robert Smalls, an African American Union hero. He calls this idea divisive, and a “poison pill.”
“In an ironic way, it would make things a lot worse…because here’s what we will discuss- were they forced to serve? That’s a discussion that may be a good discussion for a classroom setting and for a lecture, but I’m not sure we need to have that kind of discussion on the floors of the General Assembly,” Sen. Jackson says.
“I hope this latest proposal is not what we call in legislative terms, a poison pill that’s been put in so that we won’t have anything,” he says.
Burns says he’s not against a Robert Smalls monument, and that he’s open to including African Americans from South Carolina who fought for the Union, too. But there’s no price yet. Burns hopes it can be funded through private donations.
Passersby at the State House were surprised to hear of the idea, to be filed as a bill, and reactions were set on the fence.
“Initially, I’m definitely open-minded about it, to see how it kind of plays out. I really don’t have much of an opinion on it,” SC resident Marcus Cunningham said.
“I feel like they’re trying to go for a middle ground. We’re living in a time where Confederate monuments are harder to approach in either way,” SC resident Axel Mendez said.
“I do believe that no matter what you do, you’re not going to please everybody. Somebody’s still going to have an issue and may just want to do away with it altogether,” SC resident Temeika Cunningham said.
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