Commission weighs $40,000 multi-phased approach to contextualize Confederate monument

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt September 18, 2017

An inscription on the Confederate monument in Decatur. Photo by Erik Voss

This story has been updated. 

The Decatur City Commission will consider an agreement that would add context to a controversial Confederate monument on the Decatur Square.

The agreement, with Lord Cultural Resources, would cost at least $40,000 and work would begin immediately after it is approved by the Decatur City Commission. The proposal is on the agenda for tonight’s City Commission meeting, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at City Hall, located at 509 North McDonough Street. All meetings are open to the public.

The proposal would do nothing to remove the monument, something activists have demanded in the wake of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. that resulted in the deaths of three people. City and county officials believe that state law prohibits the monument’s removal but does not prohibit efforts to provide additional context. The project would occur in multiple phases.

“The purpose of Phase 1 of the initiative is to begin immediately to provide a semi-permanent outdoor exhibit that reflects the story, conditions and experiences of African Americans in the south leading up to and following the Civil War,” City Manager Peggy Merriss said in a letter to the City Commission. “We would expect this exhibit to be installed for at least a three to four year period as Phase 2 is developed and implemented. There would be limited public comment in this phase. Local officials from the City of Decatur and DeKalb County, a designated local community steering committee and local experts and historians would be involved to inform the content development and exhibit design. The goal is to have the exhibit unveiled on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 15, 2018.”

Lord Cultural Resources has done work for the city in the past, including exhibits in the Beacon Municipal Center about the history of the African American community there.

The group leading the charge to remove the monument, Hate Free Decatur, has released a statement saying it is not in favor of the proposal.

“Once again, we are ashamed of Mayor [Patti] Garrett and City Manager Merriss’ hollow language and failure to take a stand against white supremacy, and their failure to condemn slavery and Jim Crow,” the statement from the group says. “Their language is an insult to the enslaved and murdered African Americans of Decatur and DeKalb County as well as their descendants.”

Here is the full statement from Hate Free Decatur.

TAKE IT DOWN: Decatur Residents Don’t Want Interpretive Panels

Decatur, GA: Petitioner signers and members of grassroots organization, Hate Free Decatur, have seen City Manager Peggy Merriss’ Memo to the City Commission and the accompanying proposal from Lord Cultural Resources to develop “panels” that, as City Manager Peggy Merriss’ puts it “ provide[s] a different African American perspective on events leading up to and following the Civil War.” A different African American perspective?

In support of this plan, Mayor Patti Garrett recently stated that the plan “ [h]as to do with putting something up about the African American experience that is perhaps not depicted on the monument.” Perhaps not?

Once again, we are ashamed of Mayor Garrett and City Manager Merriss’ hollow language and failure to take a stand against white supremacy, and their failure to condemn slavery and Jim Crow. Their language is an insult to the enslaved and murdered African Americans of Decatur and DeKalb County as well as their descendants.

City Manager Merriss’ Memo makes clear that the outcome of the Task Force’s secret meetings is to let the monument stand. We will not be placated with the erection of “panels.”  We want DeKalb County to take a stand and do the right thing: Take It Down.

Here is a copy of Merrris’ letter and a copy of the proposal from Lord Cultural Resources:

Multi Phase Initiative 91617 final

Lord Cultural Service Proposal

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About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

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