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Confederate monument to 'faithful slaves' must be removed, North Carolina residents' lawsuit says

A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks the removal of a Confederate monument marked as 'in appreciation of our faithful slaves' from outside of a North Carolina county courthouse. (Tyrell County Courthouse) A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks the removal of a Confederate monument marked as 'in appreciation of our faithful slaves' from outside of a North Carolina county courthouse. (Tyrell County Courthouse)
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COLUMBIA, N.C. -

A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks the removal of a Confederate monument marked as “in appreciation of our faithful slaves” from outside of a North Carolina county courthouse.

The Concerned Citizens of Tyrrell County, a civic group focused on issues facing local Black residents, and several of its members filed the lawsuit against the county's commissioners. The legal complaint argues that the monument constitutes racially discriminatory government speech in violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

Tyrrell County includes a few thousand residents in eastern North Carolina. The monument, which was erected on the courthouse grounds in 1902, features a Confederate soldier standing atop a pedestal, with one of the markings below mentioning “faithful slaves.” The lawsuit argues that the monument conveys a racist and offensive message that Black people who were enslaved in the county preferred slavery to freedom.

“The point of putting such a monument near the door of the Tyrrell County Courthouse was to remind Black people that the county’s institutions saw their rightful place as one of subservience and obedience, and to suggest to them that they could not and would not get justice in the courts,” the lawsuit argues.

The Associated Press contacted the Tyrrell County manager via email requesting a comment on the lawsuit.

North Carolina legislators enacted a law in 2015 that limits when an “object of remembrance” such as a military monument can be relocated. Still, the lawsuit says more than a dozen Confederate monuments have been taken down in North Carolina in the past five years, many due to votes by local officials.

Others were removed by force. In 2018, protesters tore down a Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam” at the University of North Carolina campus at Chapel Hill. Statues of soldiers from the North Carolina Confederate Monument on the old Capitol grounds in Raleigh came down in June 2020. Gov. Roy Cooper, citing public safety, directed that the remainder of the monument and two others on Capitol grounds be removed.

Confederate monuments in North Carolina, as elsewhere nationwide, were a frequent focal point for racial inequality protests in the late 2010s, and particularly in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The Concerned Citizens of Tyrrell County wrote that they have fought for the courthouse monument's removal for years, from testifying at county commission meetings to advertising on billboards. 

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