Residents protest for removal of Confederate statue in Pittsboro, NC

Abby Pikett, News Assistant Editor

Hundreds of people demonstrated Oct. 19 against and in support of a Confederate statue located in Pittsboro, NC. The demonstrators chanted, taunted and sang at each other for over seven hours in the middle of the disproportionately liberal small town. The three lanes of Sanford Road in Pittsboro separated the opposing sides and occasionally, passerbys in cars would honk or cheer as they drove by.

The Confederate monument has stood near Pittsboro’s Historic Courthouse for more than a century where demonstrators held signs that read “Make racism wrong again” and “No place for hate” while others waved Confederate flags further from the courthouse.

“A lot of museums have done a great job of incorporating Confederate and Antebellum society ideas into their museums and paying homage to them through exhibits. I think that where a statue or any kind of public monument is concerned, is glorifying [what the monument represents],” said Sarah Shouse, AP United States History teacher at Athens Drive.

A group of about 30 people representing members of a number of extreme far-right and neo-Confederate groups gathered around a Confederate battle flag that had been set up on private land facing a middle school named after an enslaved poet, George Moses Horton.

On the other side of the road, about 200 members of antiracist and progressive groups protested by holding signs and waving flags. Locals to Pittsboro were joined by people from Hillsborough, Durham and Charlottesville protesting the statue. Some of these people also protested Silent Sam, the Confederate statue at UNC-Chapel Hill that was brought down in 2018 by similar activists. 

This is not the first protest in regards to the Confederate statue in Pittsboro. In early October, three people were arrested during a protest about the monument and were charged with carrying concealed weapons and disorderly conduct.

The Confederate Solidiers Monument stands in front of the Old Chatham County courthouse in Pittsboro, NC.

“There’s this connotation that [protests] are super negative and very aggressive but it can be something peaceful… and then it can also be a moment for people of opposing sides to get together and actually discuss with one another and try and open up their minds to what some of the ideas are and have this open dialogue that they might not otherwise [have],” said Shouse.

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted in August to remove the statue. The board set a deadline of Oct. 1 for the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) to submit a proposal for what to do with the statue, since they were the organization to donate the statue to the county in 1907. They did not submit a plan and Barbara Pugh, president of the UDC’s Winnie Davis Chapter, said that the statue is now considered county property. This means it can not be removed due to a 2015 state law governing public monuments.

“I think that where a statue or any kind of public monument is concerned, is glorifying [what the monument represents]. To glorify something that (a) lost, (b) was about breaking the country apart and (c) represented hate and slavery, is not something that we as a society should be glorifying,” said Shouse.