The NAACP rally to remove the Confederate monument from its 140-year spot on Broad Street isn’t until 6 p.m., but Kim McGahee was compelled to come early.
MaGahee, who had several ancestors who served in the Confederacy, felt the need to do some sprucing up before the event, as she pulled up weeds that had grown between cracks in the 76-foot tall memorial. Her reason?
“I don’t want it to look bad for their protest tonight,” she said as she blinked back tears. “I want it to be perfect tonight and I will be praying that nothing bad happens.”
The Augusta native who now lives in Grovetown said her great-great-grandfather James Franklin Upton and two of his brothers fought in the Civil War. Upton, who was from Jefferson County, was wounded in the second Battle of Bull Run (or Mannassas) and one of his brothers was killed during one of the many skirmishes on other battlefields. She lamented all the current uproar over Confederate monuments and noted that Upton was among the “poor dirt farmers” who didn’t own slaves and considered the war a fight for the South’s freedom.
“I know everybody doesn’t know it wasn’t all about slavery,” MaGahee said, adding that her great-great-grandfather helped freed blacks build a home on land he gave them to farm.
MaGahee criticized white hate groups that have helped change the narrative for which these monuments were built.
“I can’t stand the KKK and what they’re doing,” she said. “I’m tired of this racism.
If the Broad Street monument is moved, MaGahee hopes that it will be put in a good location.
“I’d hate to see a wrecking ball tear it down,” she said. “I hope they will put it in a place where people can enjoy it.”
• The rally will begin promptly at 6 p.m. with a call to order by Augusta NAACP chapter president Beulah Nash-Teachey followed by a prayer by Pastor Dr. Ortiz.
A musical selection will follow and Trent Nesmith will be sharing his story, Nash-Teachey said.
Additional comments and a reading will be done by John McCrosky. Followed by discussions spearheaded by Denice Traina, with the Peace Alliance, Rev. Christoper Johnson with Interfaith Coalition and closing statements by Rev. Melvin Ivey, with Greater St. John Baptist Church.
Nash-Teachey said next steps would be to request a meeting with Mayor Hardie Davis and city commissioners.
•Bernard Singleton came to the rally at the Confederate Monument on Broad Street to “see it removed.” For him, the statues of generals are honoring “guys who fought to keep my ancestors enslaved. Moving it to a museum would be a good solution, said Singleton, who works in a factory in Waynesboro, Ga.
Mattie Mitchell, on the other hand, said “we can’t change history, and if you take one down you’ve got to take them all down.” Mitchell, who is black, said she would bring her grandchildren to see the monument so she could talk to them about what happened.
And she doesn’t think taking it down would solve anything.
“If it’s not this, it would be something else,” she said. “We would still have trouble between the races.”
•Julie Hiller, whose third-great-grandfather died fighting at Gettysburg, said the monument “is his headstone.” She wishes people would look at the monument and “think how far we’ve come.”
“Skin color doesn’t matter,” she said. “We all bleed red.”
Her friend Jo Harris, who accompanied Hiller to the rally, said she could understand that it offended some people, and “maybe it should be in a museum.”
•Alton Rouse, an Augusta native, said he came to hear what the group had to say regarding the monument. He said he believes that the taxpayers should be able to “have a voice.”
“We should be able to vote on it,” he said.
•Matthew Hutcherson, president of the Federation for a Free Africa, came to oppose the rally. He said he is against taking Confederate monuments down because they are reminders of how far blacks have come in this country. He said he has Confederate ancestors
“America still has the will and desire to move forward and go hand in hand with inclusion,” said Hutcherson, who was wearing a Confederate hankerchief in his shirt pocket.