The 110-year-old monument to the Confederacy in Decatur Square will be removed, despite no one wanting to take it off the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners’ hands.
But how long the 30-foot-tall obelisk, erected in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, will remain in the city center is still unknown.
DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson wants the Lost Cause monument to be kept in storage until someone comes along who can take responsibility for it.
“We’re just trying to see what we can do legally, but the bottom line is it will be removed – we have the authority to do so,” she said April 10.
Davis Johnson, who represents District 5, introduced a resolution in October 2017 authorizing the county to determine legal ownership of the monument, and that led to the county publishing a request for proposals to relocate the obelisk in early January.
The initial 30-day submission period was extended because no one responded.
On April 10, Davis Johnson said no proposals were submitted before the extended deadline passed on April 6.
“Not only did we put proposals out, we contacted certain entities that we felt would be interested in discussions about taking the monument,” she said.
Davis Johnson said several organizations were contacted by the county, but the monument didn’t interest any of them.
“The Sons of the Confederacy, the Daughters of the Confederacy, the municipality of Stone Mountain. None of them came forth,” she said.
Regardless, the monument’s days in front of the historic DeKalb courthouse, just a stone’s throw from the new courthouse and the county government’s offices, are numbered.
“I would like to put it in storage until we can get someone that can take it,” Davis Johnson said. “We just have to see.”
The commissioner won’t know how long it will take to get the monument removed until she has received legal opinions on the matter.
“We have to follow the law and the bureaucracy but we intend to remove the monument,” she said.
The obelisk, which “glorifies and praises soldiers of the Confederacy,” has become a contentious issue for thousands in the community who have signed petitions for and against its removal.
Hundreds of people have also marched against the monument and held vigils calling for it to be taken away from downtown Decatur.
Opponents of the Jim Crow-era obelisk say it is inappropriate to have a monument that was created to intimidate people of color in a prominent position at the county’s seat of justice and administration.
They point out the monument’s installation in Decatur Square came on the heels of the bloody Atlanta race riot of 1906, when armed white mobs attacked black people, killing more than 25 and injuring more than 90.
Those who prefer the monument to stay in situ say it is an important reminder of history, and that more information should be installed around the structure for historic context.
Davis Johnson said she thinks Confederate monuments are so controversial in the current political climate that people who would ordinarily accept them as an expression of their heritage are reluctant to do so.
“I think that they just don’t want to get into it,” she said.
Students in a class at Agnes Scott College in Decatur are coming up with recommendations for what could go in the monument’s place.
Davis Johnson said those recommendations will be considered for adoption.
“I feel very confident that we will be left in good hands,” she said.