Answers on removal of Capitol monuments surface after 4 years

Four monuments were moved at a cost of more than $500,000

The Confederate Monument at the state Capitol grounds was partially torn down by protesters in June 2020 before being relocated to an unknown location. (Izzy Lavalette / for North State Journal)

RALEIGH — After four years of records requests, North State Journal has received some answers about the monuments removed in 2020 from the Capitol grounds in Raleigh.

North State Journal originally asked for details about the statue and monument removals from the Capitol grounds in late June 2020. The monuments and statues removed included the Confederate Monument, the monument to the Women of the Confederacy and a figure of Henry Lawson Wyatt.

NSJ’s 2020 public records request asked the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for all records of the removals, including costs, man-hours, resources employed and what vendors might have been used. NSJ also asked for any related emails sent between the NCDOT and Gov. Roy Cooper’s Office.

NCDOT refused to produce the documents for more than a year, and NSJ decided not to pursue legal means to compel document production.

In January 2024, NSJ filed a new public records request, asking simplified but comparable questions, such as how many statues were removed from the Capitol grounds, where were they sent, where are they now and how much it cost.

“Four statues were removed June 19-21,” and the “entire removal and relocation costs were $550,026.11,” NCDOT responded this month.

NCDOT added, “Contractors for the state of North Carolina removed four statues and some granite from a tall monument on the Capitol Grounds and transported them initially to the North Carolina National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh.”

The response also said, “NCDOT is not aware of their current location.”

On June 20, 2022, Cooper issued a press release, claiming the removal of the monuments was in the best interest of “public safety.”

“I have ordered the Confederate monuments on the Capitol grounds be moved to protect public safety,” said Cooper in the press release. “I am concerned about the dangerous efforts to pull down and carry off large, heavy statues and the strong potential for violent clashes at the site. If the legislature had repealed their 2015 law that puts up legal roadblocks to removal we could have avoided the dangerous incidents of last night.

“Monuments to white supremacy don’t belong in places of allegiance, and it’s past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way,” said Cooper.

Cooper reiterated his press release statements in a post on his official Medium account.

In addition to NSJ’s NCDOT records request in January 2024, NSJ also made a records request with the governor’s office requesting all staff emails, including Cooper’s, related to the removals, as well as a question as to why statues depicting Zebulon Vance and Charles Brantley Aycock were left standing.

The governor’s office did not respond to the request despite prompting from NSJ editors.

Aycock is a former North Carolina governor whose father owned slaves. He is also known for being a successful lawyer and for leading the state’s Democratic Party in a white supremacy campaign in 1898. While running for governor in 1900, his platform included white supremacy themes that included the use of violence against black citizens and the overall demonization of blacks.

Vance, also an attorney, was twice voted in as governor. Vance was also a slave owner, with records showing he owned at least six slaves. While serving in Congress in 1860, Vance took a pro-slavery stance, stating in part that, “Plainly and unequivocally, common sense says keep the slave where he is now — in servitude. The interest of the slave himself imperatively demands it.”

About A.P. Dillon 1320 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_