Union County, NC Commemorates Its Slaves…

only, you wouldn’t know that by reading the marker.

The 48-inch by 29-inch marker reads: “In Memory of Union County’s Confederate Pensioners of Color,” then lists their names: Wilson Ashcraft; Ned Byrd; Wary Clyburn; Wyatt Cunningham; George Cureton; Hamp Cuthbertson; Mose Fraser; Lewis McGill; Aaron Perry; and Jeff Sanders.

And it includes this wording: “In Honor Of Courage & Service By All African Americans During The War Between The States (1861-65).”

How embarrassing for the people of this community.  More here and here.

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3 comments… add one

  • Andy Hall Aug 4, 2012

    “In Memory of Union County’s Confederate Pensioners of Color”

    That’s really odd phrasing. I understand why they did it, because (however much it elides the nature of their roles in 1861-65) it’s narrowly true that they received pensions. But you gotta wonder if those men would want to be remembered that way, and for that fact. Confederate and Union pensions alike were based not just on documentation of service in some capacity, but were also “means tested;” an applicant had to be indigent, or nearly so, to qualify. In the days before Social Security, Medicare and VA programs, Civil War pensions were were part of a haphazard sort of social safety net, and were a form of public assistance. So you gotta ask — would we put up a monument honoring “Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Who Later Went on Food Stamps,” and then listed their names? Because effectively, by calling out “Confederate Pensioners” as a unique group, that’s what they’re doing in North Carolina.

    Confederate (and Union) pensions are extremely valuable as historic documents, that can (and should) be used to help tell these mens’ individual stories. But to “honor” and call out these men by name explicitly because they received a pension seems to show a real ignorance of what those pensions were, why they were awarded, and it’s highly questionable whether those men would have wanted to be remembered in exactly that way.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 4, 2012

      All good points. The only thing I would add is that it goes without saying that these pensions were not issued by the Confederate government. The wording on the marker does nothing less than distort the history – end of story.

  • Bob Huddleston Aug 4, 2012

    i wonder when the “monument” was erected. *That* would say a great deal about its choice of words.

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