Orangeburg City Council votes to remove Confederate statue, rename John C. Calhoun Drive

Updated: Jun. 30, 2020 at 6:58 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WIS) - On Tuesday, the Orangeburg City Council voted unanimously to remove a statue of a Confederate soldier located in downtown Orangeburg.

The 30-foot tall statue was built in 1893 to honor Orangeburg Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. It is currently located in Courthouse Square

Some members of the Orangeburg Revitalization Coalition say they’ve been asking city council to remove the statue for a while now. “I feel a sense of oppression and hate and really hurt that it’s even still visible,” said executive director of the group, Natalie Able.

Some other residents say the statue belongs in a place people can choose to visit and not in the center of downtown. "Take it to your house. Take your heritage to your museum, but not where my children have to go to school and look up at a symbol of hate and a symbol of oppression, people that oppressed my people for 400 years," explained Harvey Elwood.

But not everyone supports the council’s decision, and the group that rallied outside of City Hall was met with opposition who say the statue represents heritage, not hate. “It is not racism. It is for everybody who fought in that war, black, white, child, woman, that gave their lives for a good cause, a cause that they fought for,” said Jeanette Jeffrey.

Council members also unanimously voted to rename John C. Calhoun Drive, which runs through a portion of downtown. “John C. Calhoun said slavery today, slavery tomorrow, slavery forever. That’s not my ancestors, and that’s not my history,” explained Harvey Elwood.

Some argue both decisions should have been put on a ballot for residents to decide the future of the monument and street name. Others believe this is the first step towards bringing the community closer together and removing racial constraints in Orangeburg. “It is prevalent right now at this time for us to do what needs to be done, for us to bring unification in this county, in this city, so we can be all what God wants us to be as a people,” explained Bishop Hayes Gainey.

Councilman Richard Stroman says he’s heard from community members who would like the statue moved to the Historical Society at the city’s expense. He also noted changing the name of John C. Calhoun drive could cost businesses in the area money to change their address, and he suggested the city should also cover that cost.

Both resolutions will now have to go before the state legislature because the Heritage Act requires a two-thirds vote for removing memorials of historic figures or events from public property.

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