Tecklenburg presents plan for adding historical context to Charleston's statues, monuments

Mayor Tecklenburg (WCIV)

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg has submitted to the city’s Commission on History a plan to alter historical statues and monuments by adding more context about their connection to slavery, racism and white supremacy.

Tecklenburg outlined the proposal Wednesday at the history commission’s latest meeting. Earlier in August, Tecklenburg announced he opposes the removal of Charleston’s statues and monuments to controversial historical figures tied to slavery, the Confederacy and white supremacy.

Tecklenburg’s position came in response to calls for the removal of certain monuments following deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which itself was in response to a growing trend of removing memorials to the Confederacy throughout the South.

First addressing Charleston’s most prominent statue, Tecklenburg said Wednesday he wants a plaque added to the John C. Calhoun statue in Marion Square describing Calhoun’s role in American and South Carolina history, while also displaying Calhoun’s views on racism, slavery, and white supremacy.

The mayor also calls for similar plaques to be placed on other monuments and statues, such as that of Wade Hampton and the Defenders of Fort Sumter.

Under Tecklenburg’s proposal, the information on the plaques or other displays added to these monuments would be written by Charleston’s History Commission, and would also feature public input. The writings would ultimately have to be approved by City Council.

“I feel that adding to the historical story enables us to more fully understand and learn from our past,” Tecklenburg said. “This approach is also a practical reality as the state legislature by way of the Heritage Act prohibits the removal of certain historical markers and artifacts without legislative approval.”

Additionally, Tecklenburg suggested:

  • Creation of a section on the City’s website explaining the historical significance of race, racism, slavery, and white supremacy regarding city monuments, places and buildings
  • Improving access to and information about the monument to Denmark Vesey, who was executed after conspiring to lead an 1822 slave uprising in Charleston.
  • The creation of a significant African American monument at White Point Gardens and/or Riley Waterfront Park
  • Creation of a monument to the First South Carolina Volunteers, escaped slaves from South Carolina who served as Union soldiers at the risk of being hanged.
  • The addition of other appropriate markers and memorials, particularly to the contributions of civil and human rights leaders of Charleston’s history.

Tecklenburg also calls for a broader review of memorials and historical markers throughout the city.

Tecklenburg says he came to the realization changes needed to be made when recently giving tours of Marion Square to prospective designers for a memorial at Emanuel AME Church.

“It became apparent to me during those tours that a more complete telling of the history of Marion Square was needed, to put into historical context the statue of John C. Calhoun and the memorial to Wade Hampton, along with the pivotal history of this special place in our city.”

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