By Tia Lynn Ivey
A Confederate monument erected in Madison’s Hill Park has sparked controversy, prompting the City of Madison to form a special committee comprised of “diverse opinions” to help decide what should be done. The Madison Mayor and City council announced at Monday’s regular meeting that city leaders will work on assembling the committee after a petition to have the confederate monument removed garnered more than 275 signatures and a flood of emails to keep it poured into the city. The city is also planning to host a public forum about the Confederate monument to give all citizens the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns, but noted it could take three-to-four months, or longer, before such a forum could be held due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In the meantime, city leaders are planning to task the special committee with assessing public opinion and investigating the legal options for removing the monument or adding to it to give the statue some more “historical context.” The city is also planning to seek input for city boards such as the Historic Preservation Commission, The Greenspace Commission, the Public Arts Commission, the cemetery commission and the city’s parks and recreation department.
“I think it’s a very wise decision to appoint a group of diverse citizens with different thoughts because every one has different opinions and we also have to keep in mind the law,” said Hodges of how to move forward.
“We need to put aside personal feelings and just look at the facts,” said Councilwoman Carrie Peters-Reid.
“In the e-mails I have gotten, everyone is either one way or the other and we need to figure out how to hear everyone’s opinions of this,” said Councilman Ed Latham. “We need a committee that doesn’t come up with just a ‘my way or the highway’ type thing. They need to interact with each other and think about and listen to the comments. I think it’s important to have our citizens do that.”
The debate comes down to whether or not the Confederate monuments honor the memory of fallen soldiers and Southern heritage or symbolize of racism and the white supremacy that dominated the South after the Civil War. Some want it removed, others want it to stay as is, and others still are proposing a compromise, arguing it should stay but with some added verbiage, context and visuals to better reflect society’s values today.
The tall, slender monument crafted out of white Italian marble stands at 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 such monuments removed. Defenders believe the poem is metaphorical and does not refer to race. 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.
To view the petition requesting the monuments removal visit: To view the petition to have the Confederate monument removed visit: www.change.org/p/madison-ga-city-remove-confederate-monuments. To voice your opinion on the issue, send your Letter to the Editor to: firstname.lastname@example.org.