Don’t bury the past; try to understand it
Our monumental debate
The following were published together in Sunday’s Insight section
By Gordon Correll
Special to the Salisbury Post
The North Carolina governor wants all Confederate monuments taken down. I understand why, but every issue has more than one side. As much as someone may want to think otherwise, the real cause of the American Civil War was created by the geographical differences between the North and the South. Agriculture became the economical means by which the South made money rather than by industry as in the northeastern United States. In the northwest, slavery was not allowed due to the Northwest Ordinance passed by the Confederation Congress in 1787.
The South used slave labor to make its economy thrive. The North did not need slavery for its economy to thrive. That is why the two sections of the country were different with regards to slavery, but it does not excuse or rationalize slavery. It is only a reason for it. Slavery was not just a Southern institution; the North is not innocent when it comes to slavery. At one time, New York City was one of the largest cities that allowed slaves to be imported into the country. By the time of the Civil War, however, slavery was confined to about 14 states in the South where the climate would support large scale farming, and slaves were used to support the economy. When people advocated abolishing slavery, the rich plantation owners in the South were in fear that their livelihood would be destroyed. They could not let this happen. So, eventually 11 Southern states succeeded from the Union.
Confederate monuments were erected after the Civil War to honor some generals and the common Southern soldier. Many of the boys who went to fight for Southern rights did so because their state asked them to fight, or in some cases, drafted them. Many of these boys and their families never owned a slave. They were fighting because their state was being invaded by Union troops from the North. They believed that the states had a right to succeed from the Union. If they did not have this right, show me where it says so in the U.S. Constitution.
North Carolina was not a wealthy state in 1861. Many poor people lived here, and most did not own slaves. Many of the boys who went to war from North Carolina did not fight for slavery. They fought and died for the reasons stated above. In fact, North Carolina lost more soldiers in the Civil War than any of the other 10 Southern states. Many of those monuments were dedicated to their memory.
Does this justify slavery? No, nothing can justify slavery, and we will never really know how this institution has scared so many black people today. No person should be proud of this aspect of our history, but it did occur. We should not bury it, but we must make an effort to understand it realizing that understanding it does not justify it.
I would hope that if these Confederate monuments are to be taken down that it will be done by the citizens of the individual towns and counties who choose to do so in a democratic way through their city and or county governments. I do not think it should be a state issue, and I do not want one of these monuments to cause ill feelings from any of the people in our city, but I am sure they will. I hope that our city will listen to all sides of this question, and then take the action they feel is in the best interest of the citizens of our city and county. Let us not have the events that occurred in Virginia and Durham come to Salisbury or Rowan County. We are better than this.
Remember, we are looking at history through 21st century eyes; the people who erected these monuments looked at it and lived it through 19th century eyes with no input from the black community.
I wonder if future generations will want to take down the Vietnam Memorial because they may see it as an unjust war in which our soldiers were baby killers rather than the young men who went to war and did their duty because their country called them to do so.
We need to do the right thing. Our citizens and local government need to make this decision not the governor or the state. I pray we make the right decision and respect each other as we do it.
Gordon Correll lives in Salisbury.