SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Since Saturday’s violence in a city hundreds of miles away in Virginia, many in Savannah have wondered about the divisions in the country.
In Charlottesville, a 32 year old woman was killed in what’s referred to as an act of domestic terrorism after counter protesters clashed with White Nationalists who had planned a rally to object to the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Some in the White Nationalists crowd carried Confederate flags and a few Nazi flags were also seen.
Since word of the violence and the young woman’s death, some Confederate monuments have been removed in several cities, prompting President Trump to tweet Thursday that he felt culture and history “were being destroyed.”
But Savannah Mayor Eddie Deloach and the council took adifferent view Thursday, taking on the topic of the city’s Confederate monument head on. Deloach said although he has relatives who fought in the Civil War, he knows that other “citizens fought for the Union.”
Deloach said acts of violence committed in the name of hate and race have to be denounced. Then he brought up the Confederate monument. “In Forsyth Park we have a beautiful monument that pays homage to the Confederate dead but this monument only tells a portion of our city’s unique history.”
The monument was erected in 1875 as an effort to honor the fallen and while it may bear witness to the grief of Southern families, it doesn’t tell the entire story. As Dr. Stan Deaton from the Georgia Historical Society told us this week “it honors the dead but doesn’t say why they died and why they fought.”
And that story, Deaten says, is one that over the years has been somewhat re-written in terms of why the Civil War started, i.e. Southern States leaving the Union and starting a war to preserve slavery.
Mayor Deloach said the monument needs to tell it all and it’s a story long overdue for African Americans. “We must just not be on the right side of history..we must write the right version of history. Our nation, our city, our families are divided and we must embrace the whole story so we don’t repeat it. I call on the city manager and the city attorney to find a way to expand the story this monument tells to be inclusive of all Savannahians regardless of race, creed or color.”
City Attorney Brooks Stillwell told council members that a state law passed in 2016 “prevents the council from moving the monument.”
Still, it’s anticipated that materials and or other statues could be added to the scene to create a broader picture of historical facts as they occurred.
Thursday’s meeting also allowed for Mayor DeLoach to announced he is requesting the Talmadge Memorial Bridge be renamed.
“I hope the council will join me and with me in supporting a resolution to send to the governor and state legislator to work with out community to achieve this goal,” Deloach said.
The bridge is named after former Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge, a known suppressor of racial equality.
The council says it will seek public input to begin the process through a public form hosted by City Manager Rob Hernandez. No set date for the meeting has been announced.