Bap­tist sem­i­nary pro­fes­sor: Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments should go

Cecil Whig - - RELIGION - By MARTHA QUILLIN The News & Ob­server

WAKE FOR­EST, N.C. — Most mon­u­ments to Con­fed­er­ate he­roes should be re­moved and de­stroyed be­cause they cel­e­brate peo­ple who fought against the United States, and keep­ing them up is di­vi­sive, a Bap­tist sem­i­nary leader and his­tory pro­fes­sor said this week.

“I just find it strange to ven­er­ate some­one who waged war against our coun­try,” Brent J. Au­coin said in a pod­cast shared Mon­day by South­east­ern Bap­tist The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, where Au­coin is a his­tory pro­fes­sor and as­so­ciate dean of the Col­lege for Aca­demic Af­fairs.

Au­coin ap­pears in the pod­cast with Walter R. Strick­land II, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of sys­tem­atic con­tex­tual the­ol­ogy and as­so­ciate vice pres­i­dent for King­dom Di­ver­sity at the school in Wake For­est; and Maliek Blade. Strick­land and Blade are co­hosts of the King­dom Di­ver­sity Ini­tia­tive podcasts.

Orig­i­nally, South­east­ern Sem­i­nary had planned to hold a fo­rum on cam­pus on Sept. 1 to dis­cuss the events in Char­lottesville, Va., dur­ing an Aug. 13 gath­er­ing of white su­prem­a­cists and oth­ers protest­ing the planned re­moval of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from a pub­lic park. A coun­ter­protestor was killed by a self-de­scribed neo-Nazi.

The fo­rum was can­celed be­cause of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey-re­lated storms that moved through Wake County that night.

At the out­set of the pod­cast, Au­coin talks about the ori­gins of the Civil War, cit­ing the doc­u­ments pub­lished at the time by del­e­gates from the states that se­ceded from the Union, start­ing with South Carolina. Its se­ces­sion del­e­gates de­fined states as “slave­hold­ing” and “non­slave­hold­ing,” and said that non-slave­hold­ing states had bro­ken the con­tract of the union of the United States by re­fus­ing to cap­ture and re­turn run­away slaves.

“Of­ten times the de­bate over the Civil War is whether the south­ern states se­ceded be­cause of states’ rights or be­cause of slav­ery,” Au­coin said. “In part, it’s both, but mainly it’s be­cause of slav­ery. States’ rights is sim­ply the ba­sis upon which they se­ceded.”

Au­coin quotes from the doc­u­ments’ as­ser­tions of the “un­de­ni­able truth” that Africans were an in­fe­rior race.

Au­coin goes on to talk about the two pe­ri­ods dur­ing which most of the ex­tant mon­u­ments to the Con­fed­er­acy were erected — from the 1890s to the 1910s, and again dur­ing the 1950s and ‘60s – when so­cial and po­lit­i­cal gains be­ing made by African Amer­i­cans met re­sis­tance from whites.

The mon­u­ments, along with lynch­ings and seg­re­ga­tion, he said, were in­tended to re­mind African Amer­i­cans in the South that, “This is a white man’s re­gion. We are su­pe­rior. You are in­fe­rior. You need to know your place and as long as you main­tain your place, we will have peace be­tween the races. But if you chal­lenge white supremacy, you will pay a high price.”

Es­pe­cially since the events in Char­lottesville, the mon­u­ments have be­come a flash­point for dis­cussing Amer­i­can race re­la­tions and so­cial sen­si­tiv­i­ties. Last Fri­day, the N.C. His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion met to dis­cuss a re­quest by Gov. Roy Cooper to re­move Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments from the N.C. Capi­tol grounds to the state-owned Ben­tonville Bat­tle­field site in John­son County. The com­mis­sion quickly voted to post­pone the de­ci­sion un­til April to give it time to dis­cuss the le­gal­ity of such a move.

Au­coin said there could be an ar­gu­ment for keep­ing some of the mon­u­ments that are ded­i­cated to the masses of sol­diers who left their homes to join the fight for many rea­sons: a re­sponse to peer pres­sure, a sense of de­fend­ing their home­land, an eco­nomic ne­ces­sity. But even those prob­a­bly should not be on the grounds of gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions, like the one that stood out­side the old Durham County Court­house be­fore it was top­pled by pro­test­ers, he said.

“Call­ing those sol­diers ‘Our Boys,’ “as some of the mon­u­ments do, he said, “is prob­lem­atic. It’s not uni­fy­ing at all.”

While the stat­ues, many of which were mass pro­duced and sold by trav­el­ing sales­men, may have mar­ginal artis­tic value, Au­coin said, they are not relics of the Civil War it­self and, un­less fully and fairly ex­plained in a mu­seum set­ting, they are not ed­u­ca­tional.

“I just don’t see any great loss com­ing from these stat­ues be­ing de­stroyed.”


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With heavy hearts, peo­ple gather for a can­dle­light vigil at Town Square to re­mem­ber those killed and in­jured the day af­ter a lone gun­man open fired onto a county mu­sic fes­ti­val from the 32nd floor of Man­dalay Bay Ho­tel, killing 59 and wound­ing 527...


The mon­u­ment to Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers stands on the North Carolina Capi­tol grounds on Aug. 16, 2017 in Raleigh, N.C.

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