The lone white member of the Leflore County Board of Supervisors says its decision to remove the Confederate monument from the courthouse grounds will hurt efforts to unite the community.
“It’s a sad day, in my opinion, for Leflore County when we’re trying to unite each other that you would make a vote such as this that will divide this community,” District 1 Supervisor Sam Abraham said Tuesday.
Abraham missed Monday’s meeting, in which the board voted 4-0 to remove the century-old monument if a more suitable location can be found.
He said he would have voted against the proposal.
Abraham was in Rochester, Minnesota, having a routine checkup at the Mayo Clinic, which he says he does periodically and had arranged long in advance.
Abraham said he did not anticipate the board’s other four supervisors, all of whom are Black, would act on Troy Brown Sr.’s request to authorize removal of the statue without doing more research first. Last week, the Greenwood City Council did not act on Brown’s request to endorse the statue’s removal.
“I don’t even know who owns the statue,” Abraham said. “I don’t know who’s going to pay to move it. There’s a lot of legal issues to discuss along with financial.”
In the wake of recent global unrest over police brutality and racism, there has been a renewed movement to remove or relocate Confederate statues and monuments that critics say are painful reminders of the Civil War and slavery, the main cause over which the war was fought.
Prior to the vote, the county board’s attorney, Joyce Chiles, told the supervisors that they had the legal authority to remove the Confederate statue from the publicly owned courthouse lawn but that the Mississippi Department of Archives and History would need to be consulted about the statue’s relocation.
One of the four Black supervisors who voted for the removal called it a “knee-jerk reaction.”
District 3’s Anjuan Brown, no relation to Troy Brown, said Tuesday he regrets that the board did not wait on the recommendation of a committee it had appointed three years ago to propose a civil rights monument to counterbalance the Confederate one.
Anjuan Brown, who serves on that committee, said he voted with the majority Monday because he does not believe public property is the proper place for historical monuments.
“When it comes to history or heritage or things like that, that should be in the museum or somewhere where it’s really, really appreciated,” the supervisor said.
He said he is unsure whether the civil rights monument committee has a future now. It is scheduled to meet again on Thursday. He said that during its early meetings, the committee had decided that it wanted the monument not only to encompass the civil rights movement but to reach back to include slavery and the Civil War as well. “We were going to bring something to the board that the whole community would be pleased with, to tell the whole story,” he said.
He and Board President Robert Collins agreed that the consensus of the board is to no longer use the courthouse lawn as a venue for that monument, since the Confederate monument will presumably be gone.
“They can still go ahead on that (civil rights monument),” said Collins. “We just don’t want to put it at the courthouse. It wouldn’t be fair to put it at the courthouse.”
He said when the civil rights monument committee was created, the purpose was to “equalize” the treatment of history across races.
“We wanted the courthouse to be a place for the people, not just the Black, not just the white, so it won’t intimidate anyone up there,” Collins said.
Abraham said the county has bigger issues than the Confederate monument on which it should be focusing its attention.
“We have major issues in our community. The killing of our youth, crime, poverty. But we’re addressing moving a statue. That is ludicrous,” he said.
Abraham also said he does not believe relocating the statue will appease those who object to it: “If it’s offensive to you there, it’s going to be offensive to wherever they move it.”
Collins predicted that the momentum to remove Southern monuments that honor those who served in the Confederacy is not going to reverse itself. Still, he has some reservations over whether he and the rest of the board’s majority made the correct call.
“I don’t really know if we did the right thing or not,” he said. “I just did what I thought was best. I just don’t know.”
• Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or email@example.com.