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County, Daughters of the Confederacy respond to request for 'historic' mural's removal
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County, Daughters of the Confederacy respond to request for 'historic' mural's removal

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The Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina NAACP, sent out a statement Thursday asking that the mural currently housed at the Cabarrus County Public Library be removed, citing its focus on the Confederacy and its depictions of people of color.

The Cabarrus County Government sent out a statement Thursday evening saying it's open to discussing the possibility of moving the mural.

“The county and our local NAACP have a longstanding relationship and regular dialogue. The Board of Commissioners and county leadership remain open to discussing topics of significance and possible solutions, including the mural.”

In his statement, Spearman took issue with the mural’s characterization in the Cabarrus Magazine in 2015. The magazine used a quote describing the mural as “historic.” But Spearman said the mural’s purpose wasn’t to depict Cabarrus County’s history.

“There could be no objection to the mural at the Public Library if it actually did portray ‘the history of Cabarrus County,’” Spearman wrote. “It is instead another memorial to the Confederacy; of the 51 human figures in the mural, 30 of them are Confederates or their supporters. The noble Confederates march on well over two-thirds of the entire mural. Only four of the figures are African Americans. All four of them are enslaved, two children and a stereotypical ‘Mammy’ figure and an equally stereotypical figure of the ‘kindly old uncle.’”

Spearman questioned why the Confederacy takes up the majority of the mural when other parts of history received so little space.

“Regardless of the racial composition of the mural, the Confederacy only existed for four years. In a ‘history of Cabarrus County,’ should the Confederacy get well over a majority of the persons depicted? More than textile workers? More than agriculture? We see two or three soldiers from World War I and a tall artillery piece,” Spearman wrote.

The mural also depicts a white man seeming to give orders to a group of Native Americans.

The 50-foot-wide mural was originally commissioned by the city of Concord in 1939 as part of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project to bring art to the United States during the Great Depression. It was painted by Chapel Hill artist and North Carolina native James Augustus McLean and was unveiled at Memorial Hall on March 21, 1941.

The mural was placed in Memorial Hall, which was a community center at the time. Memorial Hall is now known as the Concord Museum.

The mural was moved to the public library’s Ruth Coltrane Cannon auditorium in the late 1970s when Memorial Hall was scheduled to be demolished to provide space for a church parking lot.

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Ruth Coltrane, the namesake of the auditorium, was the daughter of a Confederate soldier.

According to Historic Cabarrus Association Inc., the Concord Museum, formerly Memorial Hall, was established in 1939 when the Concord City Aldermen requested that the Coltrane-Harris UDC Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) create a home for artifacts, documents and books of historical significance to the community.

In his statement, Spearman notes that the Coltrane-Harris UDC chapter erected a monument on Highway 15 with an inscription that read: “IN COMMEMORATION OF THE ‘KU KLUX KLAN’ DURING THE RECONSTRUCTION FOLLOWING THE ‘WAR BETWEEN THE STATES.’”

Deloris Clodfelter, current chapter president of the UDC, said she is unsure of what happened to the Highway 15 monument.

“I can only speak for myself and not for the chapter. I don't know if that rock still exsist (sic) because we have nothing to do with the Klan nor do we know of their existence. We are an organization that preserves our history and does projects to help our neighborhoods, our veterans and VA hospitals and so forth.”

When asked if the chapter would support the mural’s removal from the library, Clodfelter said it isn’t possible.

“I can not help what our charter members did to paint the history of our town. In my words you can't change history no matter how hard you try. Right now, it is upstairs out of view, with a projection screen over it, so how is it possible that you were able to see it?” She continued: “But as far as removing the mural off the wall, then I don't see where that will be possible.”

The county inherited the mural in 1998 when the facility was deeded from the city of Concord to the county.

The mural was covered with a scrim in 2014, blocking the public and library employees from seeing it.

Some have stated that the mural was covered to preserve its colors and the canvas fabric, but the county did not give an official reason for why the mural was covered.

There aren't any formal plans for the county to discuss the topic of removal yet.

For now, members of the public can view the mural by appointment, where a library historian provides context and answers questions, the Cabarrus County Government said.

The auditorium at the library is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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