Chapel Hill News

Hillsborough board supports removing museum’s ‘Confederate’ marker

rwillett@newsobserver.com

The Hillsborough Town Board voted Monday to support removing the words “Confederate Memorial” from above the front door of the Orange County Historical Museum at 201 N. Churton St.

The decision will now go to town’s Historic District Commission, which must approve any changes to property within the town’s Hillsborough Historic District. The commission meets Aug. 5.

A sign would be posted to tell visitors about the building’s history and other historic events at the site, including the N.C. Constitutional Convention of 1788, according to the board’s plan. The building adds to the character of the downtown district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It could be several months before a sign is in place, Mayor Tom Stevens said.

The words are all that remains of the original “Confederate Memorial Library” marker affixed to the building in 1934, when the United Daughters of the Confederacy donated $7,000 toward its construction. A federal Civil Works Administration grant also paid for the whites-only library.

Museum officials said the change has been three decades in the making and does not reflect the nation’s ongoing conversation about race and history.

They removed the word “library” when the museum moved into the building in 1983, museum executive director Candace Midgett said. They asked town leaders in May about removing the rest, she said, so the museum could add its own name and its own history.

Town Board members talked about the request twice in June, voting to delay a decision and get more information. They heard Monday from the public.

Most who spoke wanted the words to stay, Stevens said. It was a “very respectful and certainly a very heartfelt” discussion, he said, with many focused on preserving the Southern heritage of the site. Others thought the decision was political correctness gone too far, he said.

There also was strong – although not as vocal – support for taking the words down, Stevens said. Board members talked with a variety of folks and read newspaper, email and social media comments before coming to a decision, he said.

The issue is not what the majority wants, he said, but doing what is right. The marker has made some museum visitors uncomfortable, he said, while others avoided going in at all.

“There’s an appropriate way that’s welcoming to everybody of embracing history,” Stevens said.

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