Student note on Confederate Monuments in North Carolina

‘”The monument was erected in honor of the 321 men from Alexander County who lost their lives in the Civil War. It is a single granite block 7 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 8 inches thick with two small circles above the front inscription containing pairs of crossed confederate battle flags.”
Image courtesy of Commemorative landscapes of N. Carolina.

Kasi E. Wahlers has published an interesting student article in the North Carolina Law Review titled “North Carolina’s Heritage Protection Act: Cementing Confederate Monuments in North Carolina’s Landscape”. It takes up North Carolina’s handling of remnants of public monuments aimed at remembering and commemorating some ugly aspects of its past.

From the Abstract:

Even in 2015, the North Carolina landscape is densely populated with Confederate monuments, appearing in more than half of the state’s one hundred counties. The state has more monuments honoring the Civil War than any other event, with five Civil War monuments for every World War II monument. Most of these structures were erected between 1890 and 1930 and many are located on public property, commonly found in and around courthouses, town squares, graveyards, and University campuses. In July of 2015, North Carolina enacted the Heritage Protection Act (“HPA”). This law severely restricts the removal, relocation, or alteration of any monument located on public property. While neutral on its face, North Carolina’s Heritage Protection Act was enacted for the purpose of protecting Confederate monuments.

This Recent Development argues that the North Carolina Heritage Protection Act creates a lack of accountability on behalf of the N.C. General Assembly, usurps powers of local governments, and is amorphously vague as to what objects it applies to. Clarification of the statutory language by the General Assembly as well as a provision allowing for the erection of plaques that contextualize these monuments within local history is needed. Analysis proceeds in three parts. Part I of this Recent Development briefly sketches the propagation of Heritage Protection Acts across the South, outlines the North Carolina Heritage Protection Act, and highlights ways the North Carolina statute differs from other states. Part II discusses the confusing nature of this statute and analyzes legislative history to offer insight as to: (1) what role the North Carolina Historical Commission plays, if any, in deciding to permanently remove or relocate monuments; (2) whether this statute applies to county or city owned monuments; and (3) what constitutes a “display of permanent character.” Finally, Part III argues that this statute is in need of clarification and a provision that provides for plaques that contextualize these monuments within their local history. A brief conclusion follows.

Wahlers, Kasi E., Recent development. North Carolina’s Heritage Protection Act: cementing Confederate monuments in North Carolina’s landscape. 94 N.C. L. Rev. 2176-2200 (2016).

1 thought on “Student note on Confederate Monuments in North Carolina”

  1. Interesting how the comments about the confusing nature and language of the North Carolina Heritage Protection Act when it comes preciseness, transparency and clarity, are the same issues raised by the antiquities trade in the realm of international cultural property patrimony laws though given less attention. Cultural property laws need the same clarity by defining “cultural significance” or “national heritage items” etc.

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