Two S.C. state senators – a white Republican and a black Democrat – say they know a “possible and positive way forward” through the divisive debate over Confederate monuments.
Sens. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, and Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, plan to propose a State House monument to Robert Smalls, an African-American South Carolinian who fought for the Union during the Civil War.
The senators, both of whom were in the Legislature during debates over the Confederate flag’s display at the State House, will hold a press conference Wednesday to discuss their proposal.
“At this time in history, our communities, state and country need greater unity and less (dissension),” Gregory said in a statement.
“Removal of historical monuments in (South Carolina) will create less of the former and more of the latter,” Jackson said, adding while historical monuments should be displayed on the State House grounds, they should represent “all of South Carolina’s history.”
“Erecting a monument to honor Robert Smalls, who was a heroic and dynamic South Carolinian, is a great step in that direction.”
Born into slavery in Beaufort, Smalls was a boat pilot who was freed after commandeering a Confederate ship and turning it over to the Union, which he fought for in the Civil War. After the war, Smalls was elected to the S.C. House and Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. He was a champion of civil rights and public education for all students.
Gregory and Jackson say their proposal is an attempt to do something positive as communities debate the role and future of Confederate monuments.
That debate has grown more widespread recently after violence broke out around the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va.
In South Carolina, removing statues would require changing or repealing state law. The state’s Heritage Act — passed after the Confederate flag came off the State House dome in 2000 — requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to remove historical monuments.