“A Cherished Myth”: From Dr. Tim Tyson’s Speech On Confederate Monuments

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Excerpted from Dr. Tim Tyson’s speech at the “Protect the People” Moral Monday Rally, on July 27 at the NC Capitol:

“The unanimous Confederate White South is a cherished myth. If someone had tried to put up a Confederate monument here [on the Capitol  grounds] shortly after the Civil War, there would have been another Civil War. Instead white North Carolinians erected nearly all of our Confederate monuments, around 1910, fifty years after the Civil War. After the White Supremacy campaign had seized power by force, and taken the vote away from black North Carolinians. The monument reflected that moment of white ascendency, as much as they did the Confederacy…

During the Civil War the actual Confederacy bitterly divided North Carolinians. This was the last Southern state to secede. There remained a persistent outcry of moral dissent. Thousands of whites even took up arms against the Confederacy. And far more refused to accept its authority. Thousands of black North Carolinians escaped slavery and served in the Union Armies. Confederate officials complained that North Carolina was “infested with disloyal persons.”

Confederate Governor Zebulon Vance called the conflict “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” and persistently threatened to take North Carolina out of the Confederacy. The 1862 Confederate Conscription Act, which exempted prosperous slaveholders from military service, turned many more against the war. Beginning that fall, North Carolina’s own internal Civil War began in earnest. From the coastal swamps to the wilderness of the Blue Ridge, anti-Confederate guerrillas, Unionists, and runaway slaves battled the Confederacy. Parts of North Carolina became ungovernable. Scores of meetings were held in over 40 of the state’s 86 counties to demand an end to the war. Campaigning for reelection in 1864, the Confederate governor, Governor Vance declared, “The great popular heart is not now, and never has been, in this war.”

The notion that the Confederacy represents white North Carolina’s heritage is not historical, but instead political. There are roughly 100 Confederate monuments in North Carolina. Five of them are on the Capitol grounds. There are no monuments to the enslaved that built our state. There are none for the interracial Reconstruction government of the late 1860s in which black and white came together to write the Constitution we still try to live under, and also built our first system of free tax-supported public schools, until they were overthrown amid a ruthless campaign of Ku Klux Klan violence. Our State House displays no statues to celebrate the interracial Fusion movement of the 1890s. The most daring experiment in interracial democracy in Southern political history, which could have led us into a different South. No monument stands on our courthouse lawns to the interracial Civil Rights movement. There are no statutes of Abraham Galloway, Charlotte Hawkins Brown, Ella Baker, or Julius Chambers. Only one side of our racial history gets a public monument in North Carolina. The Confederates and the White Supremacy movement at the turn of the twentieth century.”

– NC NAACP Education Chair Dr. Tim Tyson

Find the video of this excerpt from Dr Tyson’s speech at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jo_XHeB0IxU

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