Middle Georgia State professors hold forum on Confederate monuments

Confederate monument / Brittany Collins (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- Middle Georgia State University's History and Political Science Department held a forum on the future of Confederate statues on Wednesday.

Students, community leaders and neighbors attended the forum, which was sparked by the deadly Charlottesville protests in August.

Since then, several Middle Georgia groups have had discussions on if the statues should be removed, replaced or left alone.

Civil War historians Dr. Neils Eichhorn, Dr. James Trae Welborn and Dr. Mark A. Smith were on the forum's panel.

Each man had his own thoughts on the statues and provided information on their histories.

"These are symbols of the success of that endeavor because by 1890, the Jim Crow and segregated South are in place," Welborne said. "The south is a legally segregated place. The lost cause memory of the war and what it's about, the large south directed that area."

Welborne said he thinks they should be placed in a Civil War exhibit.

"These monuments were not put up as a moment for reunion," Eichhorn said. "It's a monument to show, 'No we didn't learn from the war. We didn't want to embrace racial equality.'"

"At my opinion, given what they symbolize, they're not important for our public spaces as they currently are," Smith said.

Johnny Mack Nickles wants to see the statues stay.

"I'm here to defend the monuments," Nickles said. "Because I do not look at those monuments as a racist issue."

But he doesn't want the Charlottesville attack to divide the nation or the Macon community.

"When the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other people, they came there to spread their hate," Nickles said. "Both groups. When Charlottesville decided to take down that monument, they opened the door and allowed those people to come in. I don't want Macon to do that."

Others like C. Jack Ellis believe the Confederate statues still represent white supremacy.

"One half of all of the officers in the Confederacy owned slaves," Ellis said. "One half. Including our own."

Nickles said just like the statutes of Confederate leaders, he respects statues of African American icons.

"We have monuments in town to commemorate black people like Rosa Parks, Rodney Davis, who I have all the respect in the world for Rodney Davis," he said.

The historians said they want to keep the conversation going about Civil War history. They believe slavery divided the north and the south in the U.S. and influenced nearly every political decision.

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