Residents in Front Royal, Virginia, came together Sunday for a discussion about the future of a Confederate statue outside the courthouse.
Historians were among those on the panel discussion to help voters decide whether to remove and relocate Front Royal’s Confederate statue.
The board of supervisors has decided to allow residents to vote on the fate of the statue next month. Local historians said voters should consider the impact these monuments have on Black residents.
James Gillispie, dean of the School of Humanities & Social Sciences at Lord Fairfax Community College, spoke about why he believes some Southerners may oppose the removal.
“I’m heartbroken that it took a series of tragedies to make it come about,” he said, adding that white Southerners likely oppose the removal of these statues because the decision would contradict their view of history.
“Everything that they thought they knew, maybe there’s something in the history that points in a very different direction, and that really touches a nerve,” Gillispie said.
Laura Lee Cascada, with Front Royal Unites, organized the event.
“There are others who say the statue is like a stab in the gut to our Black residents. A perpetual reminder that not that long ago, they themselves were considered property,” Cascada said.
Resident Suetta Freeman was a student at Warren County High School in 1958 and was shut out by the resistance Black students met during desegregation.
The former president of the Warren-Page branch of the NAACP shared her experience with racism to help residents understand the climate Black residents faced.
Front Royal Unites has collected more than 2,500 signatures urging the county’s board of supervisors to relocate the statue, while also encouraging residents to vote.
The group will hold another community discussion at Bing Crosby Park on Nov. 4 to appeal to the board to remove the statue.