At a cross­roads over his­tory ver­sus the present

The Covington News - - OPINION - Dustin Ketchem New­ton County

Dear editor,

The statue on the Square in Cov­ing­ton is unique. It’s a generic man dressed in his mil­i­tary for­mals that rep­re­sents New­ton County’s fallen con­fed­er­ate sol­diers. Most of these stat­ues were erected be­tween 1920 and 1970 dur­ing the height of the Jim Crow era.

This one how­ever was erected in 1906 by the United Daugh­ters of the Con­fed­er­acy, who were one gen­er­a­tion re­moved from the bat­tle. Their fathers and grand­fa­thers fought in the war.

The statue is the only known memo­rial that hon­ors the sac­ri­fices made by the women of the con­fed­er­acy, and Cov­ing­ton it­self is unique to his­tory. The story of Sher­man by-pass­ing our town on his “march to the sea” makes us spe­cial.

Our an­te­bel­lum beauty well pre­served; our county seat it­self may as well be a mu­seum.

None of this how­ever changes the fact that the man de­picted on the statue in the cen­ter of the square rep­re­sents a sol­dier, who re­gard­less of his per­sonal ideals or so­cial class, took up arms against the United States of Amer­ica in de­fense of slav­ery and those who ben­e­fited from the in­hu­mane prac­tice of. To our broth­ers and sis­ters of color he rep­re­sents an army of fathers and sons who fought to keep their an­ces­tors in chains.

To­day we stand at a cross­roads. As usual though, the dis­cus­sion in our small town starts from a solid foun­da­tion.

Even those who ar­gue for re­moval of the statue don’t want to see it de­stroyed. They un­der­stand its sig­nif­i­cance and what it means to those whose an­ces­tors died in bat­tle.

Whether the de­ci­sion is made to re­lo­cate the memo­rial to the con­fed­er­ate ceme­tery in Cov­ing­ton or to place his­tor­i­cal mark­ers on the square to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the Civil War, and what the statue means to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, it’s ours. Chair­man Mar­cello Banes has made it clear that no mat­ter what hap­pens the cit­i­zens of New­ton County will not be di­vided over this. We have far greater is­sues at hand. Level heads will pre­vail. Com­mon sense com­pro­mise is the or­der of the day.

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