Tens of thousands of fans have signed online petitions to erect a statue of the late Chadwick Boseman in his hometown, replacing a Confederate monument that was erected in 1902.
Since Boseman passed away on Friday, fans around the world have celebrated his legacy as the embodiment of Black excellence. For some, he was the first starring Black superhero they’d seen on the big screen. So it stands to reason that his hometown, Anderson, S.C. should memorialize his life, the change he brought to the film industry, and the strength and hope he represented for Black people.
For 118 years, a monument to Confederate soldiers has stood at the heart of downtown Anderson, glorifying the South’s struggle to maintain slavery and to honor figures of the past who upheld an undemocratic vision of America. This monument and others like it have long been used to intimidate Black Americans and tell a racist version of history. But as Confederate statues topple across the US, many are calling for a real hero to be erected in Anderson.
The conversation about removing Confederate monuments is not new, but the Black Lives Matter Movement and Boseman’s passing have accelerated a vital conversation about how public monuments should celebrate Black greatness rather than white oppression.
Is destroying Confederate monuments erasing history?
Like many monuments erected throughout the South during the Jim Crow era and later the civil rights movement, the statue was installed to intimidate Black people while covertly endorsing the practice of slavery. A plaque on the side of the statue reads: “The World shall yet decide, in Truth’s clear, far-off light, That the soldiers who wore the gray, and died with Lee, were in the right.”
As early as 1914, an Anderson Intelligencer writer noted that, “it is historically unusual for a vanquished army to be allowed to put up memorials.” Nevertheless, it is a part of America’s history. “The Confederate Monument belongs in a museum but has no right to be displayed there,” the petition reads.
Why should a statue of Boseman replace it?
“The monument, for a long time, has represented an ideology that saw Black Americans, like myself, as inferior. So, to have the opportunity to honor someone who saw all people as equal — and not only said that but showed that — would be great,” the petition writer, DeAndre Weaver, said.
Another resident commented: “When someone like that from your hometown dies, you want to honor them. And I think that’s the heart of it. And also, what better way to honor him than to just remove or relocate something that […] should have been gone a long time ago?” Brooks said.
Boseman was a role model to many. In a tribute, Michael B. Jordan explained that Boseman was a “hero” and a “legend” who “showed me how to be better, honor purpose, and create legacy.” He also shared that, through fame and ongoing health struggles, Boseman “never lost sight of what [he] loved most.” Jordan continued: “You cared about your family, your friends, your craft, your spirit. You cared about the kids, the community, our culture and humanity.”
Is it legal to take it down?
After years of inaction, protesters around the world have taken matters into their own hands. And while Anderson’s Confederate monument has been splattered with paint in recent months, it remains in place. It reportedly falls under the state’s Heritage Act, which requires a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to remove war monuments from public places.
You can sign the petition here.