By: Robert Scott
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Those of us in Edgefield County can see what’s happening in Richmond, in Columbia, in Atlanta, and elsewhere. Popular sentiment has clearly shifted regarding monuments that celebrate White Supremacy or celebrate the “Lost Cause” of continuing black slavery a century and a half ago. We think about what changes are overdue regarding the names on our own monuments, roads, and school buildings as well as the names of schools themselves. Which of those names celebrate people who vocally supported the enslavement of black residents of Edgefield and of South Carolina before emancipation, or their relegation to powerless second class citizen status afterward?
There are local events worthy of note this summer of 2020, including the Black Lives Matter march in Edgefield two weeks ago. Another event with high visibility is planned for 5:00pm this Saturday, June 20th, in North Augusta: a BLM protest march, starting at the North Augusta Municipal Building at 100 Georgia Ave. and ending up at Calhoun Park, where Georgia Avenue and Carolina Avenue come together. It’s not because of the name “Calhoun” (which might be a topic for another day), but because of the obelisk dominating the park: the McKie Meriwether monument. This monument is quite literally a celebration of White Supremacy. The inscription on its four sides says that directly.
Mr. Meriwether was the only white fatality in an episode in Hamburg, SC, on July 8, 1876, one hundred years and four days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The almost forgotten town of Hamburg stood on the waterfront where the North Augusta Golf Course now stands. There were seven black men killed that night in Hamburg by a mob of white men, a group numbering about 200 most of whom, including Mr. Meriwether, were from Edgefield County. Most of the black men who died were members of the Reconstruction era South Carolina militia stationed in Hamburg; several were disarmed before being summarily shot. All those killed were recently memorialized by a relatively obscure sign on Barton Road, near where Hamburg once stood. Meanwhile, the obelisk proudly proclaiming White Supremacy still stands where it has been standing since its construction within a decade of North Augusta’s establishment in 1906: in the center of town.
The BLM movement now sweeping the country has as its primary focus protesting the killing of unarmed black men by predominantly white policemen, notably George Floyd in Minneapolis last month and now including Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta last Friday. But it has as its secondary focus removing the monuments put in place to honor those who fought against the United States or, as in the case of the McKie Meriwether monument, to support White Supremacy. Unlike civil rights protests in the past, the BLM movement this summer involves not only black Americans but also many, many Americans who are not black. What unites them is the recognition that now, at long last, it is time for change.
The BLM protest in North Augusta was chosen to start at the Municipal Building on a Saturday evening because there will be little traffic and plenty of parking. If you agree it is time for change, then join us. Dress for the weather, wear a hat to keep your head shaded, and, importantly, wear a cloth face covering. Protest marches or not, the COVID-19 pandemic is still here – and that is one event this year that already unites us all. Here’s hoping that the summer of 2020 will be the season we can look back on with fulfillment: it was when we finally realized that all of us are, indeed, united as South Carolinians.