To the editor: 

I’m writing to add my voice to the growing chorus calling for the removal of the Confederate statue in front of the Halifax County Courthouse. 

As a native daughter of Virginia, I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by a celebration of the Confederacy: flags on shirts and belt buckles, statues on pedestals and highways named for defeated generals. And while these images have been a part of daily life, they have never faded into the background as harmless symbols of a long ago past. 

Instead, they remain icons of a belief that all men are not created equal and a cause that enslaves one to another. 

In the years immediately following the Civil War and since, there has been a deliberate campaign to cast it as a noble fight for state’s rights. And we can debate that for days, but it matters not. The essential truth remains that had the Confederacy prevailed, slavery would have continued, perhaps inevitably, within its borders. 

How then do we justify a continued celebration of a cause to continue this most evil and sinful institution? We cannot.

It is past time that we remove the divisive symbols of the Confederacy from public lands and institutions. Indeed, I can think of no worse place for a Confederate statue than in front of a courthouse. 

The court, where we all hope and pray to be seen and treated as equal under the law, should never harbor a symbol honoring a fight to deny the humanity of people of color or any individual. My hope for justice is immeasurably diminished by a court that welcomes me to its grounds by honoring a soldier who died to keep me enslaved and enmeshed in a world where I was property to be bought, sold, used and discarded.

When we know better, we do better. Halifax County, we must do better. And we must never forget. 

Removing this statue is not a call to erase history, but rather to remember it as it is not as we would like it to be. We will all be better served, and better educated, if we place this statue in a local museum or historical site where the full story of our history can be told, analyzed and taught. 

I know for some this may be a deeply personal issue that intertwines family history and pride. I’m afraid I don’t have an easy answer for individuals who seek to honor the legacy of their loved ones who fought bravely in defense of an indefensible cause. Sometimes the people we love get it wrong, and that is a weighty challenge. My hope is that we’ll work together as a community to wrestle with these questions. What I know for sure is that when we talk to each other and work with each other we come out stronger and closer than before. 

I call upon the Halifax County Board of Supervisors to vote for the statue’s immediate removal and to form a diverse committee of citizens to develop a plan for the statue’s preservation and relocation. History is watching. 

Sincerely, 

Hope Harris-Gayles

Halifax