Columbus NAACP President Tonza Thomas sent an email to Mayor Teresa Tomlinson Thursday asking for all Confederate symbols to be removed immediately, including a memorial to the Civil War dead on Broadway.
The letter was sent after Tomlinson posted comments on Facebook earlier this week denouncing racial hatred and bigotry in the aftermath of a white supremacists/neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Va.
“We appreciate your statement on the recent racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va., but we must take care of home,” the letter read. “In the spirit of our black, white and Jewish founders, the members of the NAACP Columbus, GA Branch request that all confederate symbols in Columbus, GA/Muscogee Co. be removed immediately.
“As we visit the gazebo next to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and walk the 700 block of Broadway, we are faced (with) symbolic reminders of the horror and hatred of many of our ancestors. We are a diverse organization that advocates for the civil rights of ALL Americans.”
In a letter responding to the email, the mayor said the city wouldn’t remove the memorial to the Civil War dead on Broadway.
“I investigated it and its history some time ago, before the horrific events in Charlottesville,” she wrote. “I do not advocate its removal for these reasons: It was erected in 1879, not during the pushback from the civil rights movement or in conjunction with Jim Crow. It was erected 14 years after the cessation of war and after Confederate soldiers (other than Jefferson Davis, Robert Lee and the Confederate Secretary of War) had been pardoned by two presidents in an effort of national reunification — to not forget, but to move forward as one nation.”
Tomlinson said the memorial was not erected by the city, county or state, but by family and friends of the dead.
“I am distinguishing between the memorial for the dead and these memorials that glorify and encourage the themes of the war and continue its upraising as a celebration,” she said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer.
Later in a news conference, she said state statute prohibits the removal of public monuments, which might apply to the one on Broadway.
“I would welcome the opportunity to meet with the NAACP and others in the community to create and design another monument, placard or symbol at that place, noting the true cause and horror of that war and its lasting effect on our community and the lives of our citizens,” she said. “Let that area be a cautionary tale to what hatred will bear.”
The mayor said the city will not tolerate Confederate flags flying on any public right of way.
“I have seen no Confederate flag,” she wrote in the email to Thomas. “I have someone from my office checking that now.”