Charleston officials say they’ll defy state law and remove statue of slavery advocate
Charleston, S.C., officials said Wednesday that they will remove a statue of former vice president and ardent slavery advocate John C. Calhoun from the city’s downtown, defying state law.
Mayor John Tecklenburg (D) announced Wednesday that he will send a resolution asking the City Council to remove the monument, The Associated Press reported. Tecklenburg made the announcement on the five-year anniversary of white supremacist Dylann Roof’s fatal shooting of nine African American worshippers at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The mass shooting, and the revelation of Roof’s frequent usage of Confederate imagery, prompted the removal of Confederate flags and iconography from numerous public locations and state capitols, including the lawn of South Carolina’s statehouse.
Calhoun went beyond even many other supporters of slavery of the time, calling the institution a “positive good” and favoring its expansion into western territories. The 100-foot statue of him stands in the city’s Francis Marion Square.
“The time has come to not just acknowledge your racist evil wicked past. The time has come to take down the monuments that honor the evil that was done in the name of Charleston, in the name of South Carolina,” Rev. Nelson Rivers, the current pastor of Mother Emanuel, said at the foot of the statue Tuesday, saying Calhoun “represents Dylann Roof to us.”
Under a 2000 state law, the Heritage Act, historical monuments and names of buildings cannot be changed or removed without a two-thirds vote from the state General Assembly. Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas, who is still in office, vowed after the Confederate flag was removed from the state Capitol to not allow any further such changes.
The announcement comes days after Clemson University trustees voted on a similar move, asking the General Assembly to let it rename the Tillman Hall building. The campus building’s namesake, “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, served as both governor and a U.S. senator and was a vocal leader in the post-Reconstruction movement to undo any political gains made by freed African Americans after emancipation. In 1900, he said on the floor of Congress that Southerners will “not submit to [black men] gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him.”