Heritage or hurtful history? Milledgeville debates Confederate statue fate

The removal of the confederate soldier's monument on Jefferson Street in downtown Milledgeville has sparked a heated debate among residents.
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MILLEDGEVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The removal of the confederate soldier’s monument on Jefferson Street in downtown Milledgeville has sparked a heated debate among residents.

The request for relocation of the monument came from Cynthia Edwards, president of the Baldwin chapter of the NAACP #5169. The monument was vandalized last year by painting the soldier’s face and hands black. Edwards believes that the removal of the statue would bring healing to the community, especially for African Americans.

“Removal of the statue would only be a healing within our community and close a dark chapter in the community for many African Americans,” Edwards said. “We’re not trying to erase history of those who continue to say it’s heritage, but it’s not our heritage.”

On the other hand, supporters of the monument want to keep it in its current location. Martin O’Toole, spokesperson for the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, believes the statue should remain in place as it honors those who died during the Civil War.

“Naturally we would be opposed to any removal that was intend to hide or conceal the Confederate monument,” O’Toole said. “The monument there not only honors those who died but those who came back, so they are our ancestors and we want to remember them and honor them.”

Milledgeville Mayor Mary Parham Copelan acknowledged the issue has been brought to City Council in the past and that there are legal challenges involved in removing the monument.

“This is a state statue type limitation,” she said.

Under state law, if the monument is moved, it must go to a place of visible prominence, like a museum or cemetery. Mayor Parham-Copelan wants to do what is best for the community while also protecting the monument.

“This is not a good process for anyone because there are going to be feelings on each side of the spectrum,” she said. “But we do want to do everything possible in our power to do what’s best for the community.”

City council is expected to vote on the issue within the next 40 days. The city attorney is consulting with other city attorneys to discuss the legal challenges of moving the monument.

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