Newport News City Council votes to move Confederate monument

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The Confederate monument in Newport News will soon be removed from its location outside the Warwick County Courthouse.

Newport News City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to relocate the monument following a public hearing.

The lone dissenting vote was Councilwoman Patricia Woodbury, who said she does not support removing the monument because the community should learn from its history to ensure it doesn’t repeat itself.

The monument has sat in front of the 1884 Warwick County Courthouse since 1909.

In late June, the seven-member council indicated to City Manager Cynthia Rohlf that they would like a begin the process of relocation, joining several other cities in the area that are also working to move or have moved their monuments.

Those other localities include Portsmouth, Norfolk, Williamsburg and Virginia Beach.

People who addressed council were split on the monument’s future.

“Removing or relocating this monument will only tear the residents of Newport News further apart,” said one woman. “It is our history and it shouldn’t be taken away from us.”

A man who said his ancestors fought for the Confederacy said the statue needs to come down.

“They were wrong in their convictions and they were wrong in their actions and they do not deserve the slightest iota of recognition and glorification for this,” he said.

Woodbury acknowledged the controversy, but still said the monument should stay.

“The sign that should be outside of that statue is ‘This should never happen again. It was wrong,’” Woodbury said.

“I’m sorry if it divides, but it’s a talk we have needed for a very long time and I hope we will get through this,” said Councilman Dave Jenkins.

There were some complications in the process for Newport News: a state easement agreement through the Department of Historic Resources, required the city to get permission from the State Board of Historic Resources before making any changes to the site. Mayor McKinley Price said the board approved the removal.

Now, the city enters a 30-day window in which it can ask museums, military battlefields or other similar groups whether they want to take the monument. The city can also decide to simply keep the monument but move it to another location.

The Virginia chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference says the monument’s removal is a step in the right direction, but the fight isn’t over yet.

They want photos of segregationist mayors removed from council chambers.

The organization also wants Newport News Public Schools to rename Horace Epes Elementary School. According to the SCLC, Epes was a Confederate soldier who fought with VMI Corps of Cadets in Richmond trenches until it disbanded on April 2, 1865.

“We believe that our city can do better and they should do better,” said Andrew Shannon, vice-president for the Virginia SCLC.


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