Confederate monument in Charlotte County gets new sign

Published 8:00 am Sunday, August 27, 2023

On Saturday, Sept. 16, at 1 p.m. on the courthouse lawn, Charlotte County officials will unveil a groundbreaking sign interpreting the Confederate monument that stands there.

This innovative sign, the first of its kind in Virginia, will provide valuable historical context to visitors, allowing them to better understand the monument and its significance to the time it was erected.

The event, open to the public, will feature Julie Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and State Historic Preservation Officer, as the keynote speaker.

Erected on the courthouse green in 1901, the monument with its statue of a Confederate soldier serves as a memorial to the Confederate dead, representing their heritage.

However, its symbolism is subjective and evokes mixed emotions.

According to Katy Liston, archaeologist and historian, some perceive it as a symbol of power, oppression, and a dark time in American history.

Liston said to provide a balanced perspective, a large, 30” x 54” table sign has been created. “This sign presents both viewpoints objectively, allowing readers to form their own opinions,” Liston said.

Liston said with carefully researched text, and quotes and images from contemporary sources, the sign tells the story of how the monument came to be, paid for with monies raised by Confederate women and veterans and the local government, while also placing it in the context of post-Reconstruction Virginia and the erosion of hard-won Black civil rights. Erected during the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901-1902, the links to that event are explored.

The 1902 Virginia constitution effectively disenfranchised almost all Black voters and many poor Whites in the Commonwealth.

The issue of the Confederate monument first came to light in 2020 when a local citizen sent a letter to the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors asking that the monument be removed.

The subject was tabled at the time but later was revived at the request of another citizen.

A roundtable committee was convened to address the issue at hand.

In May 2022, their recommendation to the Board was to relocate the monument 100 feet to the rear of the courthouse green. This move, estimated to cost approximately $60,000, would have situated the monument in a more prominent position, directly across from the entrance to the new courthouse.

That recommendation was rejected by the Board with a 5-2 vote.

Subsequently, the Board approached Monique Williams, a teacher and local social justice activist, along with Liston, to explore alternative solutions for contextualizing the Confederate monument.

They were then joined by Cora St. John, president of the Charlotte County APVA and a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Together, the three individuals dedicated a year to extensive research, writing, and design, resulting in the creation of the text and images featured on the sign.