In recent months since the white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville in August, there has been heavy debate about whether Confederate monuments have any place in this country whatsoever. According to USA Today:
‘The violence that erupted on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville brought renewed attention to Confederate symbols. Charlottesville, like many other cities, has struggled over what to do with its Confederate-era statues, which some view as markers of history. Others see them as symbols of hate and reminders of pain.’
Recently, vandals added a coat of pink paint to a Confederate statue of former general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest in Nashville, Tennessee. The statue is now privately owned after it was removed from a park in Memphis.
Now, two South Carolina legislators want to build a monument at the Statehouse to honor black Confederate veterans. There is just one huge problem with that though. The state of South Carolina never recognized armed African-American soldiers during the Civil War, according to pension records.
According to U.S. News & World Report:
‘The State newspaper reviewed pension records from 1923 that show three blacks claimed armed service in South Carolina units under the Confederacy. Two pensions were confirmed as cooks or servants, and none for armed service.’
Historian Walter Edgar wasn’t surprised by this information and said:
‘In all my years of research, I can say I have seen no documentation of black South Carolina soldiers fighting for the Confederacy. In fact, when secession came, the state turned down free (blacks) who wanted to volunteer because they didn’t want armed persons of color.’
Edgar spent 32 years as director of the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Southern Studies and is author of “South Carolina: A History.” He went on to further explain that any African-American who served in a Confederate unit in South Carolina would have either been a slave or unpaid laborer working against his will.
U.S. News reports:
‘A bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Bill Chumley of Woodruff and Rep. Mike Burns of Taylors would create a commission to establish a monument to honor black Confederate veterans.
‘Chumley said his bill could honor any African-American who served in the Confederacy, whether they picked up a gun or not.’
‘We are all learning a lot. The purpose of the bill is education.’
Chumley filed a companion proposal to research the contributions of black people to the Confederacy in South Carolina. This includes teaching about their service in public schools. According to U.S. News & World Report:
‘For much of the Civil War, South Carolina prevented blacks for carrying weapons because their feared it might lead to a slave revolt. The Confederacy allowed African-American soldiers in the final months of the war as their cause appeared doomed. African-American units did show up in states such as Virginia and Texas.’
Another proposal from Senator Darrell Jackson, a black Democrat, and Senator Greg Gregory (R) was also filed. This proposal, if accepted, would memorialize Robert Smalls, who became a state legislator and five-term congressman, with the first monument on Statehouse grounds to honor an individual African-American.
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