Should it stay or should it go? A confederate soldier’s monument in Statesboro is the focal point of that question. It’s one the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners will begin to tackle Tuesday evening. The panel will hear from a college student who started a petition calling for the monument to be moved. The chairman of that board of commissioners thinks this issue is a step backwards for race relations in Bulloch County. ” I really believe that this will cause a division. This will do more harm than good, so I hope, you know, that others will see it that way and for the good of the community, the good of all the citizens, some things are better left alone. It hasn’t been a problem til now, let’s not make it a problem.” Nevil said.
But the problem with the statue is that it stands in the shadow of the courthouse in the heart of downtown Statesboro. James Woodall says the hundreds of signatures he’s gathered is proof the monument invokes imagery of a painful past, tainted by the bondage of slavery in Bulloch County. He points out that the Union forces victory over the Confederate states is what brought the slave trade to an end in the South. Woodall says something more inclusive should be erected where the confederate monument stands. “That statue not to only be taken down but to be put in a place where it can be respected…and treated fairly and equitable, but at the same time, have something in its place that represents all persons and not just people of the Confederate heritage.” said Woodall.
Nevil says this is the first he’s ever heard that the monument is offensive. ” Nobody ever had a problem with it before…and now we have an individual who came in from another county in another part of the state and tells us we have to move it. So, I don’t know if that’s exactly right. If it doesn’t bother us, why should somebody else come down here and tell us we got a problem.” Nevil said.
Woodall says the hundreds of signatures on his petition is proof that this monument is a problem, especially given it’s proximity to Bulloch County’s hall of justice. “Something that serves in front of the Bulloch County Courthouse that limits a lot of ideas into what really justice is…so you see that and you’re an African-American and say that really doesn’t serve in my best interest…we’re already at a disadvantage before we even walk inside the courtroom.” said Woodall.
But those on the other side of this issue say they don’t want to forget their history. Confederate heritage runs deep in Bulloch County. The statue was erected in 1909, honoring the men who fought and died for the confederacy. 80-percent of eligible white men joined southern forces in 1860. Nevil says this issue has the potential to derail race relations in the county. “In the last 50 years, race relations We have made a lot of progress in race relations have really improved… You know it and I know it…um.. We have made a lot of progress in race relations… And… Um… I hate to see our progress… Um… Destroyed over something like this..um.. A marble monument, a stone monument.” Nevil said. He says he expects the commission to hear from both sides, but does not expect any action for or against the statue at the commission meeting on Tuesday.