COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – It would be a monument unlike any other in South Carolina.
Two state representatives from the Upstate, Bill Chumley, of Woodruff, and Mike Burns, of Travelers Rest, announced Monday that they want to honor African-Americans who fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The Republican lawmakers said they intend to pre-file a bill that would create and erect the monument at the State House in Columbia.
“What we’re trying to do is simply put something together that we can do together, and honor folks who have been completely omitted from the history books, and get the truth out about what really happened,” Burns said Tuesday evening.
Burns said that many black South Carolinians willingly fought as Confederates. He called the notion a lost part of history that he wants to honor.
The monument, he said, would show that African-Americans and white Southerners fought together.
“I think part of that, that would take some of this bitterness out of play, is to know how we were in the 1860s and how we were together then. I think when we all learn that together and compile it and bring it together. I think it’ll take a lot of the sting out of where we are.”
History shows that a majority of Southern blacks were owned as property.
Furman University history professor Stephen O’Neill said very few African-Americans fought as Confederate soldiers.
“Until the last days of the war, there was not only a reluctance but it was in fact illegal to arm slaves in defense of the Confederacy,” he said.
O’Neill questioned the timing of the monument, asking what the motive was for erecting it in 2017.
“I think it’s a bad idea to try and memorialize something that in reality was not a major part of the past and I would again ask this question: what are the motives of those people who want to erect it?”
But Burns argued that there is more to the Civil War than slavery. He believes that’s only half the story.
The other half, he said, was about a tax on goods going in and out of the state.
“Would you say it’s evenly split? Would you say slavery was more of an issue, or tariffs were more of an issue?” asked WSPA reporter Kirsten Glavin. “I’d say it’s pretty evenly split,” replied Burns.
He added that he hopes to create a commission to gather all of the facts and tell what he considers the other side of the story that you can’t find in a textbook.
“We need to take our historians and pull all this together, assign a commission to this and pull all our history together.”