The Commercial Appeal

Few changes in Charleston 1 year after massacre

Confederat­e symbols endure


CHARLESTON, S.C. — The names of Confederat­e generals still adorn street signs in Charleston’s public housing projects, and a waterfront statue dedicated to the Confederat­e Defenders of Charleston still faces Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Just down from the Emanuel AME church — where nine black parishione­rs studying their Bibles were gunned down one year ago — a statue of Vice President John C. Calhoun, a staunch defender of slavery, towers above a park.

After the June 17, 2015, massacre, South Carolina lawmakers removed the Confederat­e flag from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia.

But little has changed in Charleston, the city where tens of thousands of enslaved Africans first set foot in North America.

A section of a street in front of the white stucco Emanuel AME church may have been renamed “Mother Emanuel Way Memorial District,” but Charleston’s Confederat­e commemorat­ions remain intact — and long-standing racial issues endure.

“I think a lot of things happened out of the immediate emotions of how horrific the killings were. That’s the human side of folks and the politeness, particular­ly of Charleston, that we just had to do something. But then when reality checks us — the question is what is that going to cost us in terms of changing the way we think and do things?” said Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP.

A white man who police said hated blacks and posted photos of himself with the Confederat­e flag has been charged with killing the nine parishione­rs.

“It was truly an attack on a race of people,” said Malcolm Graham, the brother of victim Cynthia Hurd.

So why was there not a push to remove Confederat­e symbols in Charleston after the church attack?

Bernard Powers, a black College of Charleston history professor, noted that it took a 15-year struggle to get the flag removed from the Statehouse grounds.

“People see what it took, and ultimately that flag was removed because nine people were murdered,” said Powers, who co-authored a book about the massacre called “We are Charleston.”

“I think people appreciate how deeply entrenched the reverence is for the Confederac­y. For a lot of folks, it is a civil religion.”

Daniel Turner, of Charlotte, North Carolina, who was visiting Charleston’s Confederat­e Museum, said he realizes why the Confederat­e flag is offensive to many.

“I understand the flag,” Turner said. “There are bad people who used it. But the monuments are different. They are a part of history. We can’t change that.”

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