November 30, 2020

Mississippi board says county can move Confederate statue

A state board in Mississippi has unanimously approved a permit for a Confederate monument to be moved from a county courthouse to a cemetery.

The Department of Archives and History board acted Friday on the request from Lowndes County, nearly four months after the county’s supervisors voted to move the statue, the Commercial Dispatch reported. The supervisors’ vote happened as protests against racial injustice were happening across the U.S., and people who picketed outside the Lowndes County Courthouse said the the statue of a Confederate soldier glorified slavery.

County engineer Bob Calvert has been working with Archives and History officials to develop a plan for moving the monument that was erected outside the courthouse in 1912.

“My thought is that we should move it as quickly as we can,” Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Trip Hairston said after the state board’s Friday vote.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says about 780 Confederate monuments and statues stand on public property in the United States, and at least 50 of those are in Mississippi. Many of the monuments were put up in the early 20th Century, as groups such as United Daughters of the Confederacy pushed a “Lost Cause” narrative that minimized slavery as a central cause of the Civil War.

A Mississippi law enacted in 2004 says no war monument may be “relocated, removed, disturbed, altered, renamed or rededicated.” But the law also says: “The governing body may move the memorial to a more suitable location if it is determined that the location is more appropriate to displaying the monument.”

Supervisors in at least three other Mississippi counties — Washington, Bolivar and Leflore — have voted to move Confederate statues away from courthouses. Those in Lee and Lafayette counties have voted to keep statutes in place. On Tuesday, voters in Forrest County will decide whether to move one.

In mid-July, the University of Mississippi moved a Confederate soldier statue from a prominent spot near the main administration building to a Civil War cemetery in a secluded part of the Oxford campus.

The new site of the Lowndes County monument will be in a city-owned cemetery where both Confederate and Union soldiers are buried. The monument will go near Confederate gravesites, and Lowndes County administrator Jay Fisher said an archaeologist from Archives and History will ensure that no remains are disturbed.

Fisher said that after bids for disassembly, transport and site preparation are awarded, the relocation will be done in stages. Hairston said the work could take about six months.