The DeKalb County commission has added a marker to the 111-year-old Confederate monument in Decatur Square that identifies it as a symbol of racism and white supremacy.
Commissioners earmarked $3,000 to help pay for the marker and its installation outside the old county courthouse. They said the marker will provide important context to the controversial 30-foot-tall obelisk.
DeKalb commissioners tried unsuccessfully to relocate the 30-foot obelisk erected in 1908 as an ode to Confederate soldiers. If the commissioners are ever successful in having the monument in Decatur Square relocated, the marker will move with it.
The full statement about the Confederate monument reads:
“In 1908, this monument was erected at the DeKalb County Courthouse to glorify the ‘lost cause’ of the Confederacy and the Confederate soldiers who fought for it. It was privately funded by the A. Evans Camp of Confederate Veterans and the Agnes Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Located in a prominent public space, its presence bolstered white supremacy and faulty history, suggesting that the cause for the Civil War rested on southern Honor and States Rights rhetoric—instead of its real catalyst—American slavery. This monument and similar ones also were created to intimidate African Americans and limit their full participation in social and political life of their communities. It fostered a culture of segregation by implying that public spaces and public memory belonged to Whites. Since State law prohibited local governments from removing Confederate statues, DeKalb County contextualized this monument in 2019. DeKalb County officials and citizens believe that public history can be of service when it challenges us to broaden our sense of boundaries and includes community discussions of the victories and shortcomings of our shared histories.”
DeKalb commissioners are also in the process of installing another marker in Decatur Square near the new courthouse that would recognize lynchings that occurred in the county.
An estimated 592 Georgians were lynched from 1877 to 1950, the second most of any state during the Jim Crow era, according to data from the Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery-based organization that is sponsoring the marker.
The commission’s resolution describes the murders as “racial terrorism” that created lasting effects on African Americans that continue today. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery commemorates the deaths of more than 5,000 people taken by mobs that hanged, shot or burned their victims to death. The museum provides a haunting panoramic of the nation’s history of lynchings and racial injustice.
Members of DeKalb’s NAACP began working on what they call the DeKalb Remembrance Project after returning from a trip to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which was spearheaded by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). The Montgomery-based organization is partnering with local governments and groups across the country to place public markers that document lynchings in their communities.