By Tia Lynn Ivey
A monument in Madison may be the next the battle in the ongoing culture wars across America.
A petition calling for the removal of a Confederate monument on display in Madison’s Hill park has garnered over 160 signatures, prompting Madison Mayor Fred Perriman to announce that the city council will discuss the issue at a July work session.
“It’s going to be a tough conversation, but it’s a conversation that needs to be had,” said Perriman.
The tall, slender monument crafted out of white Italian marble looms large at nearly 30 feet tall with the figure of a Confederate soldier standing at the top. Engraved on the monument is a line from a poem written by English poet Philip Stanley Worsley in 1866 to honor Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
“No nation rose so white and fair: None fell so pure of crime,” reads the engraving upon the Confederate monument. The engraving is a common feature included on numerous Confederate monuments across the South, including one in Augusta. and one in Athens. The controversial inscription
has been deemed racist by numerous activists aiming to have these monuments removed. Now, Madison leaders will have to grapple with the decision after receiving several emails requesting the monument removal and discovering the petition to have it removed, along with confederate displays in Madison’s cemetery.
Jeremy Maloy, a former Madison resident, started the petition in early June. “Because of the hundreds of years of oppression that black Americans have faced and in light of recent events with police brutality and racism in the United States, I feel that it is necessary to remove the confederate monuments from Hill Park and Madison Memorial Cemetery in Madison, GA,” wrote Maloy. “It is a blatant display of the terrible past that black Americans have had to endure due to inequality and discrimination. In order to promote equality, justice for those whose lives have been affected by the racism that is still alive today, we must bring the monuments down. For the future of the city, and for the futures of the children, we must bring these monuments down. Children should not be subjected to these inscriptions and hate from the past.
Perriman said the issue can no longer be avoided and must be addressed by the council.
“We know around the nation and around the world statues are being torn down and taken down,” said Perriman. “It’s a hard thing, because feelings will be hurt if we take it down and feelings will be hurt if we do not take it down.”
Perriman addressed the controversial inscription describing America as a nation that is “white and fair” and “pure of crime.”
“Some of the writing on the statue definitely doesn’t reflect who we are now. During that time, it reflected what people thought then. But I think we have to realize we are living in a new age, in a new time. Younger people just do not have the same mindset as older people. They want to see a change and they want to make a difference.” The monument was built in 1908, after a fundraiser campaign throughout the county brought in $3,500 to pay for the Confederate monument. The statue was originally displayed in Madison near Town Square, in the middle of East Jefferson Street by the Main Street corner, but was moved to Hill Park, facing Main Street, in 1955, after being deemed a traffic hazard by local safety officials.
Back in 1955, many local citizens spoke out against the move, describing the monument as Madison’s most “prominent and well-known” landmarks.
Now in 2020, the community will debate the Confederate monument once again, but this time the fight will not be about traffic. Confederate monuments around the country have become a symbol in the fight between those who want to preserve the past and those who want to progress into the future.
Maloy, who is also a Morgan County High School graduate, only noticed the monuments when he returned to Madison with his son for a holiday visit. When Maloy and his son visited Hill Park, the boy began to ask question about the Confederate soldier monument and why it was important.
“I was mortified as I realized exactly what this statue represented, what this statue symbolized, and who erected this statue. The answer to some of those questions is deeply painful and offensive,” said Maloy. “This statue in my hometown represents a group of traitors to The United States of America whose goal it was to continue enslaving and torturing black men and women. To add insult to injury, the monument boasts:
‘no nation rose so white and fair, none fell so pure of crime.’
Maloy was also disappointed for find Confederate flags waiving above tombstones in the Madison Memorial Cemetery.
“I was appalled to see the confederate flag waving proudly over the graves of unpaid, subservient black men who lost their lives fighting for their white masters,” said Maloy.
“What must black Americans feel seeing this being honored in their own city? In their own country?”
Maloy decided to take action and created a petition on Change.org to have the confederate monument removed. Maloy hopes the community will rally around this effort in light of the protests happening all across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“Civil War History does not get rewritten because some southern socialites like The United Daughters of the Confederacy say so. Civil war history is clear and we all know that these monuments and these symbols in Madison, GA send a clear message to their citizens and to the world that they stand beside the normalization of racism in American society,” said Maloy. “The consequences of this blatant racist language, continued inaction from city leaders, and prideful monuments celebrating the torture and slavery of black men and women is the continued murdering of black Americans at the hands of white police officers. Racism has become normalized and too many are desensitized- until now. It is now impossible to look away from racism and it is impossible to deny Madison’s black community their voice.”
To read the petition, visit: https://www.change.org/p/madison-ga-city-remove-confederate-monuments
Perriman is encouraging all citizens to voice their opinions to the council.
“We want to listen to the citizens of our community. We want to hear what people think on this. At the end of the day I think our council will make the right decision,” said Perriman.