NC -- Asheville -- Vance Memorial:
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- Wikipedia Description: Zebulon Baird Vance Monument
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Zebulon Baird Vance Monument was a monument in Asheville, North Carolina, United States honoring Zebulon Baird Vance. Demolition of the monument began on May 18, 2021 and was complete except for the pedestal by May 30.
Description and history
Zebulon Baird Vance was Governor of North Carolina during the American Civil War and a United States Senator from 1880 until his death in 1894. He also lived in Asheville. George Willis Pack donated $2000, or two-thirds of the cost. Biltmore House architect Richard Sharp Smith, who succeeded Richard Morris Hunt in 1895, designed the monument, basing it on the Washington Monument. Originally, only the word "Vance" appeared on each side. Construction of the 65-foot (20 m) obelisk honoring him began December 22, 1897, with a band playing "Dixie" as the cornerstone was laid. The location of the obelisk was present-day Pack Square, on land owned by the city of Asheville. The inscription on the plaque read:
ZEBULON BAIRD VANCE
CONFEDERATE SOLDIER, WAR GOVERNOR
U.S. SENATOR, ORATOR, STATESMAN
MAY 13, 1830 — APRIL 14, 1894
THIS TABLET IS PLACED BY ASHEVILLE CHAPTER U.D.C.
Controversy and removal
Vance owned slaves, and during the Reconstruction era he opposed allowing African Americans to have equal rights. Historian Sasha Mitchell claims Vance was grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. He also wrote that African Americans had a "putrid stream of African barbarism" in their veins.
The North Carolina General Assembly created the African American Heritage Commission (AAHC) in 2008, and in 2014 the Commission began considering the creation of a monument for African Americans to provide balance for the Vance Monument. As of 2020, this has not been done. Mitchell, the commission's former chair, believed regulations and lack of staff support got in the way. After the city made plans in 2015 to restore the monument, a petition for a marker honoring black people in Buncombe County received 2000 signatures, but no action was taken. The Unite the Right rally in 2017 led to the city's creation of a subcommittee to study what to do with Confederate markers and monuments. Mitchell wanted a series of small markers to tell the story of African Americans, including the fact that slaves were sold in the area. As of 2020, nothing has yet been done.
During the 2020 George Floyd protests, the monument was defaced with spray paint. In June 2020, the Asheville City Council voted for a resolution that included having a task force determine if the monument should be removed or re-purposed. A 2015 North Carolina law would not permit this action unless the monument were privately owned, and city attorney Brad Branham said it was not clear who owned the monument and additional research was needed. The United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for the monument but did not own the land. City Council member Keith Young, who is African-American, said he believed that those who erected the monument were saying to black people, "We still have power. We still have control. And this is your place in our society." N.C. Senator Jim Davis, primary sponsor of the 2015 law, said he believed history needed to be preserved and that trying to rewrite history and remove monuments would not "alleviate the fact that slavery was".
Another option suggested was that the monument remain but Vance's name be removed.
On July 8, workers began the process of covering the monument "in order to reduce its impact on the community and to reduce the risk of harm it presents in its current state." This action resulted from a joint resolution passed by the city and county which calls for a task force to study alternatives. The resolution also resulted in the removal of two other monuments, a Robert E. Lee monument in Pack Square and one honoring the 60th Regiment and the Battle of Chickamauga at the courthouse, in July.
The city council appointed six members and two alternates to the task force on July 28.
On July 29, the Vance Monument was one of the stops on a tour in which an image of Floyd appeared on a monument, "replacing" the monument temporarily.
The task force voted to recommend removal on November 19. The city council voted 6-1 to accept the recommendation, while the one dissenter, who was African American, suggested changing the monument to Unity Tower, as part of a Freedom Plaza.
On March 23, 2021, the city council voted 6-1 to remove the monument at a cost of $114,150. An additional cost would be required to get the site ready for what would replace the monument. A Civil War preservation group called the Historical Preservation of the 26th North Carolina Troops Inc. filed a lawsuit in April claiming the city was "in breach of contract" by voting to remove the monument despite the group's restoration efforts since 2015, including the raising of nearly $140,000. Buncombe County Superior Court Judge Alan Thornburg dismissed the suit April 30. Demolition began late in May, with the top section removed May 18. The work continued despite an appeal by the group to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which denied the stay request. As of May 30, only the pedestal remained. The remainder of the monument was expected to be removed in two stages, one between June 7 and 9, and the other between June 14 and 21. The Court of Appeals acted June 4, stopping work and requiring any part of the monument to be kept.
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