Marker would detail racist origin of DeKalb’s Confederate monument

The AJC's Tia Mitchell took this video from the scene in Decatur, showing the remnants of red paint staining the monument.

DeKalb County commissioners want to add a marker to Decatur’s Confederate monument that critiques it as a symbol of white supremacy and racism.

The marker, which has not yet been designed, will draw its language from a contextualizing statement supplied a committee of historians. On Tuesday, the commission's County Operations Committee approved the statement and earmarked $3,000 for the project.

“Located in a prominent public space, its presence bolstered white supremacy and faulty history, suggesting that the cause for the Civil War rested on southern Honor and States Rights rhetoric — instead of its real catalyst — American slavery,” the statement says. “This monument and similar ones also were created to intimidate African Americans and limit their full participation in social and political life of their communities. It fostered a culture of segregation by implying that public spaces and public memory belonged to Whites.”

The full county commission is expected to approve the measure at Tuesday’s meeting.

Commissioners have also begun the process of installing a historical marker acknowledging lynchings that occurred in DeKalb. That marker will be installed near the front steps of the current Courthouse, which is close to where the Confederate monument is on display at the old Courthouse.

DeKalb County leaders tried to move the Confederate monument to a less prominent location on private property, but no one wanted to take it. State law prevents the destruction or concealment of Confederate monuments owned by local governments.

Rep. Vernon Jones, D-Lithonia, has suggested that the 30-foot-tall obelisk could be relocated to the county landfill as a way to meet the letter of the law while achieving the goal of reducing its visibility. But county commissioners have said they are looking for a private person or entity to take it on.

While that remains their goal, commissioners see the marker as an opportunity to provide greater understanding of the monument where it stands now. It would travel with the obelisk if it is ever relocated.

Over Super Bowl weekend, someone threw paint on the monument and nearby cannons. The vandalism occurred around the same time that anti-fascist groups were protesting the Confederate carving at nearby Stone Mountain. Groups behind that protest said they were not responsible for the monument vandalism but support its removal.

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