Asheville passes, Buncombe County will consider a joint resolution to plan for the removal of several Confederate monuments in the downtown area.
The resolution, proposed in light of the nationwide protests that have followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, specifies the removal of confederate monuments located at the Buncombe County Courthouse and in Pack Square Park within 90 days of its passing. It also would establish a joint City-County task force to recommend action regarding the removal or repurposing of the Vance Monument.
According to the resolution, “The Confederacy was formed by its political leaders for the express purpose of perpetuating and expanding slavery of African Americans.” The legacy of slavery, institutional segregation, and ongoing systemic racism harms public safety and public health, and the area’s black residents have previously called to replace Civil War memorials with “monuments that honor local African American history and are created by African American artists.”
City-County Plaza Monuments to Go
The resolution notes that the “monuments to Confederate soldiers and military leaders” were installed “by white Southerners seeking to preserve the Confederacy” long after the end of the Civil War. Such monuments “are widely perceived as offensive and painful public reminders of the legacy of slavery and present realities of systemic racism in our country.”
A monument honoring the 60th Regiment of North Carolina Confederate soldiers sits on county land in front of the Buncombe County Courthouse. The other, the “Robert E. Lee Dixie Highway, Colonel John Connally Marker” is in city-owned Pack Square Park. Both were erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and ownership has never passed to the city or county.
The resolution states that NC Gen. Stat. § 100-2.1(c) allows the City and County to remove Confederate monuments from public property, and continues, “Request is hereby made to the United Daughters of the Confederacy to immediately remove the two Confederate monuments located at the Buncombe County Courthouse and Pack Square Park. If said removal is not completed within 90 days from the date of full adoption of this resolution, then the City of Asheville and Buncombe County shall take action to remove the monuments.”
The Vance Monument is in Pack Square Park, literally at the heart of downtown Asheville, likely the location where slaves were sold and traded. Vance, the governor of NC during the Civil War, was an avowed and determined racist and slave owner whose birthplace, including numerous “slave quarters,” is a state historic site on Reems Creek Road in Weaverville.
The resolution calls for a 12-person task force, with the city and county each appointing six members, to consider the Vance Monument’s future, and, “within three months of all appointments being made, provide a report to the City Council and the County Commission with a recommendation regarding the removal and/or repurposing of the Vance Monument.”
Interestingly, the resolution calls for covering the monument during the task force’s work. Effective with the “passage of this resolution and until such time as the monument is removed or repurposed,” the monument will be “shrouded in order to reduce its impact on the community….”
Both Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, in office since 2013, and Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman, now completing his first term, have put their weight behind the revived call to remove the monuments. City Council passed the resolution unanimously on June 9, 2020, with the County Commission vote to follow at its next meeting June 16, 2020.