Monumental upheaval: Vance obelisk to be removed in Asheville

Honoring slave owners was never a good idea:

The Buncombe County Commissioners voted 7-0 on Monday to remove the obelisk erected more than a century ago in an Asheville square to honor Zebulon Vance, a Civil War officer and North Carolina governor who owned slaves, news sources reported. The Asheville City Council was scheduled to vote on whether to accept the recommendation on Tuesday.

In November, nine of the 12 members of the Vance Monument Task Force voted to remove the Vance monument. Two of the task force members called for repurposing the monument.

In place of my normal self-righteous rant, I will simply let Zebulon Vance himself explain why this monument needs to be removed:

“Slavery was declared abolished … leaving four million freed vagabonds among us — outnumbering in several states the whites[.]”

Later in the missive, Vance rued the implications of emancipation. “There are indications that the radical abolitionists … intend to force perfect negro equality upon us,” he wrote. “Should this be done, and there is nothing to prevent it, it will revive an already half formed determination in me to leave the U.S. forever.”

“No race, sir, in the world has been able to stand before the pure Caucasian. An antagonism of races will not be good for the colored man,” he stated.

In 1877, addressing a group of African-American citizens celebrating Emancipation Day:

“My Friends: — I appear in your meeting to-day simply to acknowledge the respect you have shown me by inviting me as the Governor of the State to visit your assemblage. You cannot of course expect me to join with you in celebrating this day, the anniversary of that emancipation which I struggled so long to prevent, and which I, in common with all the people of my race in the South, regard as an act of unconstitutional violence to the one party, and as an injury to the other.”

Bolding mine, because that is not just an arrogant (and untruthful) claim, it was also designed to further drive a wedge between races. "You have no support among white people."

It was only ten years ago that the NC Democratic Party (finally) changed the name of our annual fundraising event from the "Vance Aycock Dinner" to the Western Gala. That was progress, but we must continually be aware of symbols, syntax, and symptoms of racial inequity in our society. It's been 157 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, and too many vestiges of slavery still exist.

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