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Cornelius News

Peaceful rally-goers, mayor call for removal of Confederate Monument

Peacefully rally moved from Town Hall to the Confederate Monument with police escort

Aug. 5. By Dave Yochum. About 100 peaceful demonstrators rallied behind Cornelius Town Hall yesterday evening and then marched with a police escort to the site of the Confederate Monument in front of Mount Zion United Methodist Church.

They carried signs reading “Take it down,” “No justice, no peace” and “Don’t celebrate a heritage of hate.” The rally and march were organized by Unity in Community, a multiracial organization committed to achieving racial equity in North Mecklenburg. Rally-goers were a mix of Black and white citizens, including clergy and a handful of elected officials.

Mayor supports removal

Mayor Woody Washam, a long-time member of Mt. Zion, came out more strongly than previously in favor of removing statue.


In prepared remarks read at the rally, he said “Cornelius is a diverse community—diverse in the ways that we think, the ways that we act, the ways that we are. As Mayor, it is important to me that each person, and all of their complexities, feels safe, respected, and recognized within our Town. It is for that reason that I support the removal or relocation of this local Confederate monument. While some may see the monument as a testament to our local history, others feel that it is a constant reminder of pain, fear and deep injustice.”

Church leaders have called for removal

The senior co-pastors of the church, Rev. Dr. Angela Marlowe and Rev. Jonathan Marlowe, last year called for the removal of the monument which sits on a small patch of the front lawn long ago deeded to the Mt. Zion Monumental Association.

Donald Archer, who chaired the association in the past, has broken off communications with the mayor as well as local media.


The statue, erected in 1909 and vandalized more recently, is owned and maintained by the Mt. Zion Monumental Association, not the church.

Back in July of 2015, swastikas were painted on the monument as well as the phrase “Stop honoring white supremacy.”

The Cornelius Confederate Monument was erected in a different day and time only a few decades after “slavery was a fundamental component of the social hierarchy of pre-Civil War Mecklenburg County,” according to Mecklenburg County historian Dan Morrill.

In 1860, slaves comprised roughly 40 percent of the local population—6,800 out of 17,000—making Mecklenburg County one of the highest in terms of the number of “bondspeople” in the North Carolina Piedmont, according to Morrill.

Ernest Johnson, 18, gave a speech

Long-time Black families are descended from local slaves.

Ernest Johnson, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout, said it quite succinctly during his speech at the rally: “A significant portion of this country’s foundation and prosperity was built on hatred and extremism.” His speech got the loudest cheers. To read it, click here.

Mayor: Change will come

The mayor’s prepared remarks encouraged demonstrators and they cheered after this sentence: “Change will come in due time, but not without your voices and your dedicated peaceful efforts to demand what is good for our town.”

Archer statement from June 2020

“The Mt. Zion Monument Association has been charged with the preservation and upkeep of one of the most significant pieces of history in North Mecklenburg. A memorial to fallen soldiers that died defending their state and country. This memorial is most likely the only one in the state of North Carolina and possibly the Southeast that was funded and dedicated by fellow North Carolina soldiers in the early 1900s. In today’s politically charged climate, many people do not view this memorial as a significant and valuable piece of history. Due to this climate, the association is exploring all options available to protect and save this significant part of the history of Mecklenburg County and the state of North Carolina. Trustees of the Association receive no pay and volunteer their time and energies to maintain and preserve this rich history of North Carolina. The Association is not funded by any company, corporation, Church, or organization.”

Donald Archer in front of the Confederate Monument during post-vandalism cleaning