I made my way to Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church on New Year’s Day for service honoring former City Alderman and State Representative, Larry Womble.
I was unaware that Winston-Salem Alliance President and Mayor, Allen Joines would be speaking at the event. Not only did he speak, but Winston’s longest-serving mayor revealed a new plan to rid Downtown Winston of a Confederate statue that has long outlasted its welcome.
Here are the words of Allen Joines, transcribed from audio to the best of my abilities:
Lyndon Johnson said one time, “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”
I think we all agree that a lot of progress has been made, but still a lot has to be done. If the past has been an obstacle and a burden, the knowledge of the past is the safest and surest way toward emancipation.
Here in Winston-Salem, Councilmember Adams is going to smile when I say this, because we still have a visual example of the subjugation a people. And that’s the monument that’s sitting on Fourth Street.
Some of you know that we have been working and trying to figure out a way to move that…. We got permission from the owner of the Salem cemetary to move the monument there.
Unfortunately, the Republican…led General Assembly passed a law in 2015 that prohibits the City from taking an action to move a monument such as that…
We went to the owners of it and offered to move it. We said, we’ll pay for it, we’ll move it… But unfortunately, that organization, the Daughters of the Confederacy declined our offer to do that.
You know that monument, the statue to the Confederate dead was not put up until 1910, which was during the Jim Crow era.
It was an attempt, to, in my opinion, to really hold tight to something that has long passed. It was to further subjugate…
Councilmember Adams said last week in an email that I saw, ‘it’s time to move it.’
So we’re trying to go at it a little different way. Even though the owner, the Daughters of the Confederacy said no. Our City Attorney sent a letter on Friday. She said that that monument is a nuisance…
We are not giving up. I don’t know how that will be received. We are giving them to January 31st to move it. If they don’t we are going to bring suit.
I’ve also worked up a draft of a plaque… if we cannot get it moved quickly. That plaque basically dissociates the City of Winston-Salem from that monument, saying that that monument is a symbol of hurt to many of our citizens. And that is something that the City of Winston-Salem doesn’t tolerate.
-WS Alliance President & WSNC Mayor, Allen Joines*
City officials better get that plaque ready for display. Neither the NC General Assembly or the Daughters of the Confederacy appear to be moving an inch.
The City’s plaque disassociating itself from Johnny Rebel should go beyond calling the racist statue “hurtful.”
A plaque condemning Winston’s Confederate statue must also acknowledge the city’s racist past. Winston’s adoption of a 1912 law that mandated segregated neighborhoods in which blacks and whites were prohibited from living on the same streets, urban renewal that destroyed many vibrant Black neighborhoods in the 1960s and 1970s. I could go on and on.
Winston’s Confederate statue is a nuisance. But signs of Jim Crow are everywhere in Winston. If you don’t believe me take a road trip along Highway 52, Winston’s most prominent racial dividing line.
We all need to thank some ‘punk’ (Scott Sexton’s description) for reigniting the Confederate monument debate in Winston and widen the debate to include racism and inequality in our divided community.
Scott Sexton said, “if you really want change, demand it openly.” Sexton’s disdain for direct action is obvious. Nevermind that direct action has a proven track record. The direct action of committed activists racist Confederate relics in Durham and Chapel Hill.
Due to the brave actions of an anonymous individual on Christmas Eve, Mayor Allen Joines is now demanding change, after being silent on the topic for many months. Further proof that direct action brings about change.
But shame on Allen Joines waiting until 2019 to take Downtown Winston’s Confederate statue seriously. The City of Winston-Salem could have declared that damn Confederate statue a nuisance years ago before the General Assembly stepped in.
They have lawyers for that. Just ask the former owners of the Nitty Gritty, The Royal Inn or Lollipops gentleman’s club. Right or wrong, the City wanted those establishments closed, and away they went.
Now, the brave actions of an anti-racist activist have the City of Winston-Salem poised to sue the Daughters of the Confederacy, and possibly put a disclaimer near Johnny Rebel. I suppose that will suffice until Winston’s Confederate statue is removed from the public square, a day we should all work to advance.
*Mayor Joines stated that Winston’s Confederate monument was unveiled in 1910. In fact, it has been in Downtown Winston since 1905.