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Confederate Statue
Confederate Statue on Market Street on August 14, 2017 (Photo: Hannah Patrick/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — As tensions are high following a deadly rally in Charlottesville Virginia over the weekend, we are getting some new insight about the statue that started the controversy.

A rally by white nationalists who oppose a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park turned deadly as protesters showed up and violence broke out Saturday.

“It’s a shame that, you know, people with opposing views can’t just have their own views without coming to violent acts,” Wilmington resident Denise Worcester said.

UNCW Professor and Historian Chris Fonvielle said it is a fight about history that is starting to look like our history.

“Why are we no longer willing to accept opposing view points? Why are we willing to fight over them? You know what? This is the same kind of rhetoric we had in the lead up to the civil war.”

Fonvielle said Confederate statues hold different meanings for different people.

“For predominantly white southerners whose ancestors fought in the civil war, they represent their history,” Fonvielle said. “They may not see them as offensive symbols of racism.”

“Do you think they are racist?”
“I’m a historian, so I try to view it objectively and I had ancestors who fought for the confederacy,” Fonvielle said. “History is a very shared experience. Who gets to remember history, write history, commemorate history?”

While he does not think that history should be removed, he does think more should be added.

“Statues for African American activists for example,” Fonvielle said. “Statues to people who have a different viewpoint.”

No matter what viewpoint, all of that history is protected in North Carolina.

“The legislature a year ago passed a law that forbids removing a public statue without authorization from the legislature and the North Carolina Historical Commission,” Fonvielle said.

Fonvielle said it is a topic that could be a healthy discussion, but in Charlottesville it turned into what looked like a war.

“This was a very unAmerican way for Americans to show what they think America is or what America should be,” Fonvielle said.

Fonvielle said he and a city council member are working to put up a statue of Abraham Galloway. Galloway was an African American activist in North Carolina during the Civil War.

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Comment on this Story

  • Anonymous Hero

    The Rocky statue in Philadelphia is the most offensive. Not even a real person unless we start calling it the Sly Stallone acting statue. Tear it down!

  • VoiceOfReason

    As a white American, Confederate symbolism should be – for me – condemned on the latter but not the former. It’s not that I don’t find these symbols as racially offensive (I do), it’s just that I’m not the one being directly persecuted with these symbols. As an American, I find Confederate symbolism to be deeply offensive – it is a reminder of treason. Yes, the great Southern cause is nothing but a reminder that there was a part of this country that believes (and apparently still believes) that the parts (states) are greater than the sum (the United States) in this country. Is it a part of our history? Sure. But Germany doesn’t have statues of Hitler to remind them of his actions. For some, these symbols are a reminder of our deep racial divide. For me, they are a reminder that “Southern heritage” means that it’s OK to think that America isn’t stronger as a whole

    • Heimie Schmelter

      If you knew history better, you wouldn’t be so offended. The fact is that the soldiers of the Civil War fought for a cause they believed in at that time, be it right or wrong. These men gave up their entire families to go to battle for that cause. They lost life and limb, endured great pain and suffering. The loss of life to war and disease is no less than staggering to this very day. The bravery and commitment of these soldiers is the very backbone of this country today (or used to be)!
      We have all of these violent protesters and those offended (such as yourself) that would fill their boots with steaming sludge the first time a bullet whizzed over their head, couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag and have nothing better to do than to complain about our ancestral heritage and how “offended” you are about it. It’s incessant crap like this that is demeaning America and its legacy, it’s whiners like you that make it appears as weak. What’s next with you, blow up Mount Rushmore to “erase” that history too? You snowflake lighthearts beat all I’ve ever seen and your ignorance is no less than astounding!

  • Woody Cook

    Did you guys even read the article? As the man said, statues mean different things to different people. Stop fighting and start talking and be accepting of people with different points of views.

  • Rafterman

    The two prominent statues in Wilmington were put up as symbols to the black community that the whites were back in charge. They were put up shortly after the coup d’etat in 1898 when the white supremacists violently overthrew the democratically elected government in Wilmington. The motivation behind these statues was pure racism. They need to be relocated. Why is this community glorifying the Attorney General of the Confederacy? Read the inscription on the back of the George Davis statue. It romanticizes the Southern gentleman. These were the same men who who had their slaves whipped and much worse. I don’t get it.

    • Rick Long

      George Davis was part of the Peace Commission that tried to prevent the war

  • Dan Ferrell

    My understanding is that most of these statues and monuments were placed in public parks during the Jim Crow era that began after Reconstruction ended in 1876. They are historic symbols of the largely successful attempt to reinstitute the antebellum social, cultural and economic structure that existed prior to 1865. If memory serves me correctly, Robert E Lee himself opposed any continuance of the use of Confederate symbols following the surrender at Appomattox Court House.

    • Jill Ramsey

      The Confederate memorial movement began shortly after the war ended led mostly by women decorating the graves of soldiers. Memorial Day comes from that beginning.
      Organized into Ladies Memorial Associations the LMAs next turned their sights on bringing home soldiers buried at battlefields far away and creating cemeteries to rebury them.
      By the turn of the century economics had improved enough in the South to begin planning monuments to the Confederate dead and their leaders. It took that long (“Jim Crow” era) to even begin to have resources for the statues. And even then money was raised one bake sale and bazaar at a time.
      Some veterans organizations did this work as well but none were anywhere near as successful as the LMAs.

  • 4Justice

    Erasing US history doesn’t make it go away. Taking the law onto your own hands is illegal and selfish.
    Thank you for speaking up, Mr. Fonvielle.
    I hope you don’t get death threats from those who disapprove.

    • BlackNorwegian

      Erasing it does make it go away, just look at our children’s history books. If it’s gone it’s forgotten within a few generations.7

      • Heimie Schmelter

        Allow me to point out a few facts for you. The Great Pyramids of Gaza were built by slaves. The Great Wall of China was built by slaves. The Taj Mahal was built by slaves. The entire cites and pyramids of the Aztec and the Inca civilizations…..yes, was built by slaves. Thousands of years before America was America. The British, French and Dutch were the originators and innovators of slavery in America. The Caribbean to this very day is full of slave descendants from storm-wrecked British, French and Dutch slave ships.
        To this very day, India, China, North Korea, parts of Eurasia and the middle east CONTINUE to maintain a slave culture, to include the torture and abuse of women and children.
        So, how much of THAT do you think has been “erased and forgotten”?
        None that I can see, but I’ve got an education and I’ve studied history!

  • 4Justice

    “The legislature a year ago passed a law that forbids removing a public statue without authorization from the legislature and the North Carolina Historical Commission,” Fonvielle said.”
    Prosecute them. Period.

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