TUPELO • Ahead of a possible decision in early August, Lee County supervisors heard additional remarks Monday about the future of a Confederate monument located outside a county-owned building.
Having previously heard comments in favor of relocating the Confederate monument located at the old Lee County Courthouse, supervisors on Monday heard from a voice in favor of keeping the monument in place.
Advance plans fell by the wayside, however, as the meeting grew disorganized and multiple individuals were allowed to speak.
County resident Patty Young’s request to speak was placed on the agenda distributed in advance of Monday’s meeting, and she told supervisors she wanted to see the monument remain in place as a memorial to the Confederate dead.
She said that the monument was erected to provide peace of mind to family members of dead Confederate soldiers.
Young also offered her view that the monument has no link to slavery or oppression and that the Civil War was not caused by slavery. Instead she said the war was caused by “northern invaders” as well as agricultural taxes imposed on the South.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily Journal, Young repeated her views that the Southern states were defending themselves from oppressive economic policies. She also claimed that historical accounts of Southern slavery may not be reliable.
“People holler that those slaves were mistreated,” Young said. “None of us lived during that times. Those are just rumors. I really don’t think that we know the actual facts. There may have been some that were mistreated.”
Young also said that the enslaved “were given food, shelter and clothing” because “those slaves were worth a lot of money to those owners.”
There is widespread agreement among academic historians that the longstanding debate in the United States about the legal status of human enslavement was a major contributing factor to the hostilities of the Civil War.
In a January 1861 declaration approved by Mississippi’s secession convention, slavery figures prominently as a stated reason for the rebellion against the union.
“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world,” reads the declaration.
The declaration goes on to state that opposition to slavery among northern states left the Southern states with only two options: “submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union.”
The secession declarations of some other Southern states also explicitly identify the preservation of slavery as among the reasons they sought to withdraw from the United States.
When asked about her views by the Daily Journal, Young said “greed” motivated the imposition of taxes on the South and that then the northern states “made it about slavery later.”
When asked about Mississippi’s secession declaration, Young said this 1861 document “was after it started.”
At Monday’s meeting, current board president Tommie Lee Ivy ultimately allowed two additional supporters of the monument and one opponent of the monument to speak.
A group of Lee County activists and residents asked the Board of Supervisors on July 6 to relocate the Confederate monument located at the southwest corner of the old Lee Courthouse. The building now houses the offices of the county tax assessor and the tax collector.
State law does not allow any war memorial or monument to be removed, but local governments can move them to locations deemed more appropriate.
Lee County’s Confederate monument was first erected in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy on Main Street, but reconfiguration of the road later prompted relocation to the courthouse.
Ivy, the District 4 supervisor, said he plans to bring up the monument relocation proposal for a vote at the board’s August 3 meeting.
Ivy said he supports relocating the monument, and suggested private fundraising could cover the necessary expense. Ivy is the only Democrat on the board, and the only Black member on the board.
District 1 Supervisor Phil Morgan and District 3 Supervisor Todd Jordan both said they oppose moving the monument.
“I have no reason to move it,” Morgan said.
Jordan said he believes that either all monuments at the former courthouse should be relocated, or they should all stay. He said he does not believe that the Confederate monument merits unique treatment because of its associations.
In light of his views, Jordan said he opposes moving any of the monuments on county property.
District 2 Supervisor Mike Smith and District 5 Supervisor both declined to definitely state how they plan to vote on the issue. Smith said that, having now heard from both said, he continues to consider the issue.
Holland also said he is “still thinking about it.”
Lafayette County’s Board of Supervisors recently voted to keep its Confederate monument in place on the Oxford Square. Other counties, including Bolivar, Leflore, Lowndes, Noxubee and Washington have voted to move Confederate monuments away from courthouses.