We need to talk about the Confederate monument on the Colquitt County courthouse square. Symbols have meanings and I want to address the complex meaning of Confederate statues across the United States.
My name is Dr. Elizabeth Medley and I live in Colquitt County. I have a doctorate from Florida State University in history and my specialty is museum studies and public history. Public history is the field of study that focuses on history outside of a classroom setting. It can include museums, historic preservation, memorials, or monuments. I have devoted twelve years to studying and understanding memorials put up during the Jim Crow Era, and while I am not a famous scholar, I am a local member of this community deeply invested in the success of southwest Georgia.
The first and most basic reason the monument needs to come down is because it a memorial to the Jim Crow Era and that’s inappropriate in a public setting. The United Daughters of the Confederacy installed this specific monument in 1909. Several scholars have devoted 1000s of pages examining exactly why it matters that the UDC erected these monuments during Jim Crow and I am happy to spare anyone the reading of those books and instead talk with people about that scholarship. In short, the monuments were about reminding both white and black people of their respective place in the community and who the courthouse, the police, and justice belonged to. This is why the UDC made a point to put the monuments in town squares, rather than cemeteries among Confederate dead. This also explains why there are Confederate memorials in places like Indiana, a state with no connection to the Confederacy, but it was home to the largest KKK concentration in the United States.
The more important reason it needs to come down is because it hurts almost half of our present-day community. Statues do not teach history and they never have; they teach a community who their heroes are supposed to be by literally and figuratively putting them on a pedestal in the middle of town. Repeatedly, Black Americans have come forward to say these statues hurt them, that they offend and insult them. Colquitt County can choose to keep its statue up, but then supporters of the statue need to acknowledge that they are knowingly and intentionally hurting a significant percentage of the community and that they are fine with hurting others if it means getting to keep what they want.
Tear down the monument and put it in a private Confederate cemetery if anyone wants it. It has no value to a museum exhibit, as these statues were mass produced. Then, install a county lynching historical marker to the seven lynching victims between 1895 and 1922. This marker is already made and free to the county through the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. In exchange, the community must pledge to put the marker in a meaningful public place. It is the least the county can do.
Norman Park, Ga.