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Charleston History Commission approves wording of slavery plaque on John C. Calhoun statue

John C. Calhoun Statue (WCIV)

Charleston's History Commission has approved wording of a proposed plaque some city leaders want added to the statue of John C. Calhoun in Marion Square.

The plaque is intended to add context about Calhoun's controversial stances in support of slavery and white supremacy, at a time when people across the U.S. increasingly are calling for the removal of monuments to historical figures who espoused racist beliefs.

The draft the History Commission approved this week features a noticeable change in language from the original proposal submitted in early November, namely in the removal of the following passage:

"This statue to John C. Calhoun is a relic of the crime against humanity, the folly of some political leaders and the plaque of racism."

Much of the remainder of the original proposal remains intact, although it has been rearranged.

Charleston City Council will vote on final approval for adding the plaque to the monument at a later date.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg in August called for adding plaques and other forms of historical context to Charleston's monuments and statues after deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Tecklenburg has said he opposes removing statues and monuments. Instead, he says he favors offering the public more facts and background information to give the public a broader picture.

The mayor wants similar plaques to be placed on other monuments and statues.

Tecklenburg's proposal calls for information on the plaques to be written by Charleston’s History Commission with public input.

The texts of the original Calhoun plaque proposal and the one approved this week by the History Commission are below:

APPROVED
"This monument to John C. Calhoun (1782-1850), erected in 1896, was the culmination of efforts begun in 1858 to commemorate his career. It was erected at a time, after Reconstruction, when most white South Carolinians believed in white supremacy, and the state enacted legislation establishing racial segregation. These ideas are now universally condemned.
"Calhoun served as Vice-President of the United States under two presidents, as U.S. Secretary of War, as U.S. Secretary of State, as a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. A political theorist, he was the author of two important works on the U.S. Constitution and the Federal Government.
"A member of the Senate's "Great Triumvirate," which included Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Henry Clay of Kentucky, Calhoun championed states' rights and nullification, the right of an individual state to invalidate a federal law which it viewed as unconstitutional.
"Unlike many of the founding fathers, who viewed the enslavement of Africans as "a necessary evil" possibly to be overcome, Calhoun defended the institution of race-based slavery as a "positive good."
"The statue remains standing today as a reminder that many South Carolinians once viewed Calhoun as worthy of memorialization even though his political positions included his support of race-based slavery, an institution repugnant to the core ideas and values of the United States of America.
"Historic preservation, to which Charleston is dedicated, includes this monument as a lesson to future generations of the importance of historical context when examining individuals and events in our state's past."
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ORIGINAL
"This statue to John C. Calhoun (1782 - 1850) is a relic of the crime against humanity, the folly of some political leaders and the plaque of racism. It remains standing today as a grave reminder that many South Carolinians once viewed Calhoun as worthy of memorialization even though his political career was defined by his support of race-based slavery. Historic preservation, to which Charleston is dedicated, includes this monument as a lesson to future generations.
"It was erected in 1896, replacing an earlier monument begun in 1858, three years before the Civil War (1861 - 1865). Calhoun served as Vice President of the United States under two Presidents, as U. S. Secretary of War, as U.S. Secretary of State, as a U.S. Senator and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. A brilliant political theorist, he was the author of two important works on the U.S. Constitution and the Federal Government.
"A member of the Senate's "Great Triumvirate" that included Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Henry Clay of Kentucky, Calhoun championed state's rights and nullification, the right of an individual state to disobey/ignore a Federal law with which it did not agree. Unlike many of the founding fathers who viewed the enslavement of Africans as "a necessary evil" to possibly be overcome, Calhoun believed/advocated the institution of slavery as "a positive good."
"The monument was erected at a time when many South Carolinians still saw the Confederacy a noble experiment based on its commitment to slavery. They believed in white supremacy and enacted decisive legislation legalizing racial segregation, ideas now condemned by all and universally recognized as repugnant to the United States of America's core ideals and values."



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