The statute of a Confederate soldier has stood in front of the county courthouse on the Jackson square at the intersection of Third and Mulberry streets for 119 years, and has made it through World Wars I and II, other wars since, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But with other Confederate memorials being taken down around Georgia and the nation, how long this statue will continue to stand remains to be seen.
If it were up to Butts County resident Jayla Perkins and the 761 people who signed a petition she presented to the Butts County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 14, the statue will not be up much longer.
Speaking during the public comment period of the BOC meeting Monday night, and backed by more than 20 other members of the Black community in Butts County, Perkins made an impassioned plea to have the statue removed.
“As a minority in Butts County, I face racism, division, and inequality, that allow me to see the imperfections in my town,” Perkins said. “Every day when I pass through our community square, I see a Confederate statue entitled ‘Our Heroes.’ The statue depicts a white man and his rifle, worries minorities, condones the immoral efforts of the Confederacy, and reminds us of an era of dark history.
“Because I want the image of my community to represent everyone, I bring in a petition today which has 761 signatures advocating for the removal of the statue,” she continued. “The Confederate stature does not adequately represent everyone and supports racism, therefore it should be removed. This removal will help the community become more unified, and make a better place for all residents.”
The statue was erected in 1911 by the Larkin D. Watson Chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) of Butts County for $1,940, acquired through the fundraising activities of its members. They chose a statue of a private facing south, heading home. There are several inscriptions on the statue, including:
”In memory of the Confederate Soldiers of Butts County whose undying devotion to duty and self sacrifice in their country’s service we cherish, and whose heroic deeds and patriotism we embalm in stone as they are enshrined in our hearts. Our Heroes.”
The 100th anniversary of the statue was celebrated in 2011 with speeches, music, Civil War era dress, and Civil War military reenactors.
The Butts County Courthouse was decommissioned as a courthouse in August 2019 and is now officially called the Historic Courthouse Visitor’s Center. It is undergoing renovations and when it reopens, it will include a tourist center and museum. With the courthouse becoming a museum, there are currently no plans to relocate the statue.
But Perkins said the Confederate statue is a symbol of the mistreatment of minorities and a reminder of dark days of the Confederacy when “minorities were enslaved, deprived of their rights, systematically oppressed, and judged as inferior. My ancestors sought to gain equal treatment and social advancement while dealing with lynch mobs and scores of white people parading Confederate symbols. These racist actions were designed to support the history of white supremacy, to prevent our advancement, and to instill fear in our people...
“The Confederate statue entitled ‘Our Heroes’ implies that these Confederate soldiers made sacrifices for all people in the pursuit of liberty, which is simply not true,” continued Perkins. “Those in question fought to preserve the system of slavery and the history of white supremacy. The message this sends to minorities is clear. It is a message of degradation and inferiority which tarnishes citizens and the image of our town. Our community cannot progress with this constant reminder of white supremacy and racist narrative. If we continue to display the statue, ideologies of hate and superiority will endure for generations...
“The time has come to face the ignorance of our history, correct the narrative, and remove the offensive statue,” Perkins stated. “Right the wrong and end the public display of a symbol that belittles minorities and incites division. Change the image of our community into inclusive praise for all people and the generations to come. Show the world that Butts County is a leader in social progress and is accepting of all people. Take down the Confederate statue.”
The BOC accepted the petition, but made no statement in response before adjourning the meeting.