A conversation Augusta officials have been leery to start has been initiated by the Georgia conference of the NAACP instead.
On Wednesday, state conference President Phyllis Blake issued a statement calling for elected officials to remove all confederate symbols from public property owned by the state and local governments.
“The traitors of the Confederate States of America were soundly defeated over 150 years ago and today we as diverse Georgians must send a message once and for all, that Georgia is the state too busy to hate,” Blake said in a statement. “We call on all mayors within this great state, including (Atlanta) Mayor Kasim Reed, to remove all symbols of the confederacy from city government property.”
In the immediate aftermath of violence Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., leaders in several cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Lexington, Ky., Dallas, Memphis, Jacksonville, Fla., and Macon announced initiatives involving the actual or potential relocation of Confederate monuments.
Augusta’s Confederate memorial looms nearly 70 feet tall in the 700 block of Broad Street. A group called the Ladies Memorial Association of Augusta had it erected in 1878. While it stands in the city-owned median, city spokesman Jim Beasley said officials have not been able to locate a deed specifying ownership or responsibility for the monument.
Local NAACP President Beulah Teachey said she had not received word of the state conference’s announcement and needed time to review it. “We don’t just represent minorities; this is for the whole community and we want to be very thoughtful and very inclusive,” Teachey said.
Mayor Hardie Davis did not return requests seeking comment. Davis’ communications consultant, Ryan Mahoney, said he was assisting Davis with a response but it was not made available to The Augusta Chronicle on Wednesday.
The Augusta Commission spent weeks earlier this year debating renaming the John C. Calhoun Expressway for someone other than the admitted white supremacist, but Tuesday’s commission meeting saw no mention of the monument.
“I wouldn’t say they were reluctant - nobody has tried to talk about it,” said Commissioner Dennis Williams, a former Augusta NAACP branch president who serves on the branch executive board.
“If somebody brings the subject up for discussion or calls a meeting to discuss it, I’m sure people will voice their concerns,” Williams said. “Right now, with nobody saying anything, I’m not sure what their positions are.”
Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.