Tennessee NAACP to ask for Chattanooga Confederate statue's removal

Statue of Confederate Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart at the Hamilton County Courthouse. (WTVC)

UPDATE:

Thursday afternoon, the Tennessee State Conference NAACP issued a statement about the statue, saying that although they think the effort is justified, they will will not push for the statue's removal at this time.

Read the full statement here:


PREVIOUSLY:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WTVC) - NewsChannel 9 has learned that the Tennessee chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) plans to be in Chattanooga next week to push for the removal of a statue of Confederate Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart from outside the front of the Hamilton County courthouse.

Hamilton County Commission Chairman Chester Bankston tells us Wednesday the statue "is not coming down" because it is a piece of history.

Related | Ham. Co. Commission Chairman says he won't let confederate statue come down

Commissioner Tim Boyd agrees with Bankston, saying the statue represents valor, not a symbol of slavery. He says the country has come a long way in the last 50 years.

"To try to eliminate the history that created that environment, to me, is just something that I can't even understand, really. I'm so far removed from that argument and I just don't understand it," Boyd said.

We reported on the statue last month, when the Chattanooga chapter of the NAACP called for the removal of the Stewart statue as similar Confederate statues were coming down in New Orleans.

"We find it offensive to be reminded constantly of the atrocities that they represent," Quenston A. Coleman, the second vice president of the Chattanooga Branch NAACP, told us in June.

"I don't understand the argument that seeing a statue is hurtful to them. I had relatives fight on both sides of the conflict in the Civil War," Boyd said. "When I see monuments to the valor that was shown in that war, that's what I'm looking at."

Gloria Sweet Love, president of the Tennessee NAACP, tells us state and local members will be in Hamilton County next week to ask commissioners to remove the statue. If they don't comply, they will take more action because "it's time for these to come down."

Boyd and Bankston say they have not yet been contacted by the NAACP regarding the statue.

"I don't mind talking to them about it, as long as they're willing to hear my position. I don't want it to be a one-sided conversation," Boyd said. "I just don't see it as something that's a pressing issue in Hamilton County. There are so many needs that we need to be focused on that this is not an issue that is even on my radar."

We also got public opinion from people walking near the courthouse Wednesday.

"I can understand how it can be viewed as offensive," Daniel Tanaka said. "I think there is room for dialogue and I can appreciate the historical aspect of it."

Chandler Covington says he understands both sides, but he would rather see the statue stay put.

"I like to see history stay where it's at because I think if you try to take it away, people tend to forget it. I think that's very detrimental," Covington said. "I would honestly probably prefer it to be there just so people know the story and know where we've been and know where we need to go."

"If it's part of my history then I would rather it stay because so much has been taken from us already, so, like I said, I would want to know more about it as well as my kids," Colia Preston said.

Lt. Gen. Stewart fought for the Army of Tennessee during the Battle of Chickamauga and was wounded on Sept. 19, 1863. He later took part in the long retreat to and the battle for Atlanta, serving under Gen. Joseph P. Johnston. He and his troops were defeated badly during the Battle of Nashville in 1864 and ultimately disbanded.

After the war, from 1890 to 1908, he was the commissioner of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. The Daughters of the Confederacy erected the statue of him outside the Hamilton County Courthouse in 1916, eight years after his death.

Opponents argue the monument represents a critical chapter in American history.

But Quenston Coleman with the Chattanooga NAACP told us, "If you take [monuments] down, the history will not be erased. The history, that's written in the pages and annals of libraries and tombs all across the nation."

The Tennessee Chapter of the NAACP says it plans to hold a public event next week in Chattanooga to ask that the monument be taken down. It also plans to petition Chattanooga's mayor and Hamilton County's commissioners.

But the group has not said specifically when that public event will happen, only that it would happen next week.

This is a developing story. Depend on us to bring you more details as we get them.



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