A Confederate soldier has kept a stony watch over the courthouse square for more than 100 years, but a debate over his fate seems to be emerging along with Forsyth County's plans to sell the old courthouse.
As has happened in other communities in the South, the fate of the Confederate statue is evoking differences that often crop up in how whites and blacks view the Civil War era.
County Manager Dudley Watts said Tuesday that the county's proposal to sell the courthouse to Clachan Properties LLC for $700,000 does not include the monument.
But Forsyth County Commissioner Walter Marshall said Tuesday that the statue should either be moved or sold along with the courthouse.
"The Confederacy was not legal, as far as I'm concerned," said Marshall. "It was a form of treason. You don't recognize people who did not recognize the country as being legitimate. Plus there's the history behind it, the history of slavery."
The United Daughters of the Confederacy had the monument put up in 1905. The statue should stay in its place, officials of the UDC are saying.
"The UDC, whose husbands, brothers and fathers all had participated in the war, raised the money to erect this monument in the memory of those who fought in the war," said Cindy Casey, the president of the local chapter of the UDC. "I don't look at the statue as something that represents race. It is something that represents a course of history that our community went through just like every other Southern community went through. It is our history."
The old courthouse is in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem, surrounded by Main, Liberty and Fourth streets. The statue stands at the northwest corner of the building, at Fourth and Liberty.
It may not be clear who owns the statue. UDC officials say it belongs to their organization.
Watts said various easements around the courthouse have been granted over the years for matters such as sidewalk maintenance. It is not exactly clear whether the easements include the small piece of land on which the statue stands, Watts said.
Watts said if the UDC is making a claim to own the statue, the county would investigate that if the property is sold.
Initially, Watts said his idea was that the county would carve out the statue site from the proposed deed of sale. When Watts learned about Marshall's objection, he said the matter would be decided while the sale is being considered.
Marshall said he has no problem with moving the monument to the library or some other setting where it could be appreciated as history.
Wayne Patterson, the president of the local NAACP, agreed.
"I know [the statue] is honoring the Confederate soldiers that died in Forsyth County and in North Carolina, and I understand the position of the UDC," Patterson said. "But at the same time, from the African-American perspective, it is a symbol of hatred and racism — and disenfranchisement."
Marshall said that to his knowledge the monument has never caused controversy in the black community. The statue doesn't have a lot of visibility because of where it stands, he said, and no one paid much attention to it.
County commissioners Debra Conrad and Gloria Whisenhunt said they like Watts' idea of excluding the monument from the sale and leaving the statue where it is.
"I would not want to stick it in a closet somewhere because it is a piece of history," Conrad said.
Casey said the monument is the oldest thing standing downtown.
"It is something we are proud of," Casey said. "He has been there a long time, just standing there and minding his own business."