South Carolina

By Benjamin Roy ’21

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina. Wikimedia Commons.

South Carolina has long been a center of contentious debate about the Confederacy and its symbology. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union on December 20th, 1860, triggering a chain reaction that led to Civil War . Ever since, South Carolina has hosted some of the most contentious debates about race in American politics, has witnessed some of the most horrific tragedies related to white supremacy. Dylan Roof’s 2015 attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church as a foremost example. The subsequent removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia prompted contentious debates, protests, and public hearings about Confederate iconography, both on South Carolina, and across the nation. The debate about Confederate monuments is dynamic and constantly shifting, however, it has generally moved around two assertions about Confederate iconography and its nature. First, that the monuments were erected as assertions of white supremacy related to a specific historical period; either in the late nineteenth century as part of a national campaign to assert white supremacy through public celebrations of the Confederacy; or in response to the long Civil Rights movement and in support of the Jim Crow social order and segregation, and thus are fundamentally symbols of white supremacy and oppression. Second, controversy has swirled around the memorialization of elite Confederates like Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, questioning whether those who committed treason against the United States and were slaveholders deserve monuments, and if their legacy is consistent with modern principles of patriotism, equality and racial equity.

The objective of this report is to interrogate these points of contention using GIS (geographic information systems) mapping tools and supplementary historical sources. The objective is not to unequivocally prove or disprove these points, or advance an argument about the nature of Confederate monuments in South Carolina, but rather to generate new data about the monuments and their nature. The first goal of this report is to map when and where Confederate monuments were erected in South Carolina, from the end of the Civil War to the present (winter 2020). The second goal of this study is to understand whether monuments to specific individuals or memorials with no specific honoree are more common in South Carolina, and if there is any regional variation. This study is strictly interested in monuments, memorials, and statuary, and does not map buildings, roads, or natural features named after Confederate soldiers or statesmen, thereby addressing the controversy more directly.

Map 1: Specific Honoree vs Nonspecific Honoree (2020)

Results

Most Confederate monuments in South Carolina were erected between 1900 and 1920 and are dedicated to specific individuals. There are 44 monuments dedicated to a specific honoree, and only 15 with no specific honoree (Map 1). Confederate monuments dedicated to specific individuals tend to be focused in urban areas like Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville/Spartanburg; Confederate monuments dedicated to no specific individual tend to be spread throughout rural areas, although some are located in cities (Map 1). There tend to be fewer Confederate monuments on the coastal plain of the state (Map 1). The largest surge in monument creation occurred during the period of 1900-1909, when 16 monuments were erected and dedicated (Map 3). Monument erection declined dramatically after 1920, with very few being dedicated over the course of the rest of the 20th century; 8 were erected from 1920-1989, and only 4 more were put up between 1989 and 2011, when the most recent Confederate monument was dedicated. (Maps 5 and 6).

Map 2: Confederate Monuments Erected from 1870-1899.

Much of the debate about Confederate monuments has centered on those dedicated to elite figures. Both those opposed to and in favor of removal tend to focus on the respective characters of the individuals memorialized – usually Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, or ‘Stonewall’ Jackson (Parks, 2017). The debate’s focus on statues of Confederate generals and leaders is justified by the profile of South Carolina’s Confederate statuary. Dedicated to a range of individuals, including: Hampton Wade, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee, these monuments are often located in public places, principally courthouse lawns, municipal parks, or in the center of traffic circles. Some scholars have linked the memorialization of these men in prominent civic spaces to de facto assertions of white supremacy, connecting slaveholders—or the slave-based societies these men led and ultimately went to war to defend–to post-war efforts to establish Jim Crow rule and segregation (Brown, 2019).

Map 3: Confederate Monuments Erected from 1900-1909.
Map 4: Confederate Monuments Erected from 1910-1919.

Activists in favor of removal have often argued that Confederate monuments were erected late in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century as part of a broader effort to propagate white supremacy in public spaces through segregation, or that they were erected during the period of the Civil Rights movement as an assertion of white supremacy (Garfield & Carney, 2018; Titus, 2018). This is problematic because the exact dates of the Civil Rights movement are debated by historians. Some scholars have asserted that the Civil Rights movement began in the 1930s and ended in the 1980s, others argue for the traditional period of 1954-1968 (Hall 2005; Lawson 2011). Confederate statuary in South Carolina tends to justify the debate’s focus on the late nineteenth century, since most monuments were dedicated during the 50 year period from 1870-1920 (Maps 2, 3, and 4). Very few Confederate monuments were erected during the twentieth century Civil Rights movement.

File:Wade Hampton equestrian statue, Columbia, SC IMG 4747.JPG
Statue of South Carolina General Wade Hampton in Columbia, South Carolina.
Billy Hathorn, “General and Governor Wade Hampton.” Wikimedia Commons.

The erection of Confederate monuments in South Carolina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries coincides with the rise of Jim Crow and the legal standardization of segregation in the United States at the federal, state, and local level.(Weyeneth, 2005; Woodward, 2002). Correlation does necessarily equal causation, but some scholars have linked the drive to erect Confederate monuments with a broader cultural effort to establish segregation and the legal and civil subordination of African Americans. Further, a majority of the monuments featured in this research were erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), an organization dedicated to propagating “The Lost Cause” (Janney 2013). The central principles of the Lost Cause were white supremacy, the moral and legal righteousness of the Confederate cause, and the glorification of Confederate soldiers and leaders (Nolan 2000). Memory of the fallen was another significant theme within Confederate statuary, however, even this dynamic doesn’t necessarily escape links to assertions of white supremacy. For families who were never able to recover the body of a loved one from a distant battlefield, a monument offered a physical location to carry out the rituals of grief, but also gave survivors a space to celebrate the cause in which so much had been sacrificed. This tangled sentiment is reflected in many of the Confederate monuments dedicated to no specific honoree. Some scholars have explored this connection between mourning and meaning, explaining that the rush of monument erection in the early 20th century was linked to fears that memories of the antebellum South and the Confederacy would be lost with Confederate veterans (Cox 2003). Monuments often combined mourning and nostalgia, muddying the perceived meaning and purpose of Confederate monuments.

Map 5: Confederate Monuments Erected from 1920-1989.
Map 6: Confederate Monuments Erected from 1990-2011.

Conclusion

Confederate monuments in the state of South Carolina are not strictly what the debates have often presented them to be. They are generally dedicated to specific individuals with heavily contested legacies, but were not erected during the 20th-century Civil Rights movement. The stereotypical image of an equestrian statue is confirmed in reality in South Carolina. But the context of those monuments, and their date of erection, require reevaluation, or a more complete accounting for their individual stories and purposes. The reality, as illustrated in the maps, is more complex, but it is still a story that is interweaved with assertions of white supremacy and symbols of oppression. 

File:Confederate Monument, Greenwood County Courthouse, Greenwood, South Carolina.jpg
“Confederate Monument, Greenwood County Courthouse, Greenwood, South Carolina.” Wikimedia Commons.

This research has limitations. It does not map schools, buildings, towns, roads, and natural features that are named after Confederate leaders. Additionally, the Southern Poverty Law center’s data that was used to create these maps was generated through crowdsources map points, and the exact locations and nature cannot be immediately verified.

This research is also limited in its purely cartographic approach to Confederate monuments in South Carolina. Without a thorough investigation of dedication speeches, monument inscriptions, symbology of each monument, the precise historical nature of individual monuments and statues in South Carolina is elusive. 

Table 1: Data Sources

NameCreatorDate Valid For DescriptionHyperlink
South Carolina Counties T.I.G.E.R.2019Shapefile representing Virginia’s counties. Link
Whose Heritage Master SheetSouthern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)2019
Google Sheets dataset containing name, location, date of dedication, and other available information of all Confederate monuments across the United States. Link

Works Cited

Brown, T. 2019 Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel hill, North Carolina, USA.

Cox. K. 2003. Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida, USA. 

Garfield, L., Carnley, E. February 2018. More Than a Year After Charlottesville, These Cities Across the US Have Torn Down Controversial Confederate Monuments.<https://www.businessinsider.com/confederate–white–nationalist–monuments–removedcities–2018–2> Accessed April 6, 2020.

Hall, J. 2005. The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past. The Journal of American History, Vol, 91, No. 4, 1233-1263. 

Janney, C. 2013. Remembering the Civil War. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, USA. 

Lawson, S. 2011. Long Origins of the Short Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968. 9-37. McGuire D., Dittmer, J. Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement. University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, Kentucky, USA. 

Nolan, A. 2000. The Anatomy of the Myth. 11-34. Gallagher G., Nolan A. The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. 

Parks M. 2017 Confederate Statues Were Built To Further A ‘White Supremacist Future.’ NPR. <https://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544266880/confederate–statues–were–built–to–further–awhite–supremacist–future> Accessed April 25, 2020. 

Sedore, T. An Illustrated Guide to Virginia’s Confederate Monuments. University of Southern Illinois Press, USA, 2019.

Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). February 1, 2019. Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy of the Confederacy. <https://www.splcenter.org/20190201/whoseheritage-public-symbols-confederacy> Accessed April 6, 2020.

Titus, J. “Memorializing the Confederate Past at Gettysburg During the Civil Rights and Cold War Era.” in Controversial Monuments and Memorials: A Guide for Community Leaders. Rowman & Littlefield Press, New York, USA, 2018.

Weyeneth, R. 2005. The Architecture of Racial Segregation: The Challenges of Preserving the Problematical Past. The Public Historian Vol. 27, No, 4, 13-44. 

Woodward, C. The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Oxford University Press, New York, USA, 1955, 2002.

  • Map Created by Ben Roy in 2020. Maps created using QGIS.
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