By Amanda Karr The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A grass-roots effort to remove a Confederate monument from the Pitt County Courthouse drew a crowd of more than 40 people to the Board of Commissioners’ meeting Monday, most in opposition to the plan.

Leaders of the effort to have the memorial to Confederate soldiers removed from the courthouse grounds made their request official before the board Monday night.

"We’re not asking it be destroyed, we’re asking it be taken down and moved to a more appropriate location," Ozie Hall told commissioners, suggesting a museum might be a more appropriate location.

The monument, at the corner of Third and Evans streets in downtown Greenville, was erected in 1914. It features a solider and reads in part: "Erected by the people of Pitt County in grateful remembrance of the courage and fortitude of her Confederate soldiers."

County commissioners did not discuss the proposal after Hall and another man spoke for removing the statue, and four people spoke against it.

For the board to consider the issue, it would have to be sponsored by one of the commissioners and put on an upcoming agenda.

The majority of those who packed into the commissioners’ auditorium stood in opposition to the plan to have the statue removed, with about 30 people rising when asked about their feelings.

Approximately 10 attended the meeting in support of the memorial’s removal.

Hall said the statue is a symbol of inequality and does not belong at the courthouse. When the statue was erected in 1914, blacks in segregated Pitt County were in no position to protest, he said.

Keith Cooper, who also spoke in favor of the statue’s removal, called it a "relic representing slavery." He questioned why taxpayer dollars should be used to maintain what he said is a symbol of division.

Those who spoke in favor of keeping the memorial where it stands focused on honoring veterans, many who gave their lives. Many Pitt County residents can trace their roots back to those soldiers and should be allowed to honor that heritage, they said.

Jimmy Ward, a retired Marine, called the monument an enduring record of the soldiers’ selfless devotion to duty. It represents a piece of history, he said.

"Sanitizing history only hurts future generations," he said.

Other speakers pointed to the role many blacks had as soldiers and in supporting roles in fighting for the Confederacy.

David Collins, a professor in the East Carolina University history department who is against the monument’s removal, suggested putting up an additional monument to black Union soldiers.

"There shouldn’t be any objection to honoring anyone who fought," he said.

Hall objected to the idea of adding an additional monument, saying no such monument is appropriate for the courthouse grounds.

Speakers on both sides said they would like to see more public education on the issue.

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