“Five years after the abolition of slavery… a Methodist minister in the remote mountain town of Waynesville, North Carolina, carried out an act of reparation apparently unprecedented in U.S. history. Asa Fitzgerald signed an extraordinary land deed in August 1870, conveying most of his remaining property to nine ‘colored persons’ he and his wife’s relations had formerly enslaved. He transferred the land explicitly as restitution for the many years of unpaid labor ‘performed by them and their ancestors while in slavery’….
“For eight years Fitzgerald and his family lived with this remarkable arrangement in apparent peace. The Fitzgerald patriarch died in 1878 with little remaining property aside from his house, a small plot of land, and his library. It did not take long for his wife and children to take legal action undoing his novel transaction….”
— From “A Personal Act of Reparation” by Kirk Savage in Lapham’s Quarterly (Dec. 15, 2019)
“On at least one Confederate soldier monument, that in Columbia, North Carolina (1912), one of the inscriptions included a statement ‘in appreciation of our faithful slaves.’ In the early 20th century several attempts were made to augment [such] localized efforts with a regional or even national monument to the ‘faithful old slaves’….But the more ambitious schemes never materialized….
“The Fort Mill [S.C.] monument remains unique as a representation of slavery, one that is deliberately comprehensive, including both house slavery and field slavery, female and male labor….”
— From “by
” ‘Since the invention of types [printing], monuments are good for nothing,’ North Carolina congressman Nathaniel Macon declared on the House floor in 1800. Working himself up to a fever pitch, he explained why he could not support a lavish memorial in the nation’s capital even for the most deserving of men, George Washington. Words, not stones or statues, preserved the memory of great men, he said….
“Macon’s speech… continued to endure in national memory and was still quoted in newspapers as late as 1821. Yet in the late 1810s, this slaveholder from North Carolina helped his home state procure an elaborate monument to Washington for the State House in Raleigh, perhaps the most ambitious sculptural monument erected in the United States to that date — a seated figure in Roman military garb designed by the most famous sculptor in Europe, Antonio Canova.
“This was an amazing act of self-promotion for North Carolina, aggrandizing the local planter elite who claimed Washington as one of their own, though in typical ‘republican’ fashion the monument misrepresented the plantation’s social order by depicting Washington, in a subsidiary image, as a modest farmer outside a rude cabin.”
— From “Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape” by Kirk Savage (2011)