Around these parts, the discussion of William Saunders is continuing. (We used to have a building on the UNC campus named after him.) On January 25 the Parr Center for Ethics will be hosting a discussion of him, his legacy, and the issues of building renaming here at UNC. And on January 26 I'll be on a program at East Carolina University with Derek Alderman on renaming. Lots to talk about, for sure. In preparation for that, I'm working on a paper on Saunders and the issues of building renaming. I'm interested in a fuller view of him than we had when the board of trustees removed his name from Saunders Hall. He was "credited" by many in the early 20th century -- including the UNC Board of Trustees back in 1920 -- with leading the North Carolina Klan; and that was certainly bad enough. The Klan was violent; their reign of terror ran from barn burnings and whippings to murder. They helped accomplished through violence and intimidation the defeat of Reconstruction in this state and the institution of Jim Crow segregation followed.
What I think must have been particularly galling was the self-righteousness of the Klan and its beneficiaries and supporters. The "Conservatives" who benefited from the Klan's violence and intimidation that disfranchised African Americans told each other that they were following the law. One editorial that was likely authored by Saunders, for instance, noted that by allowing African Americans to vote if they desired, North Carolina obtained extra representation in Congress. Northerners had put the stick in the hands of white North Carolinians. And North Carolinians intended "to use it to beat their heads with it."
Saunders' newspapers repeatedly claimed that North Carolinians were peaceful and law abiding -- at the same time that the Klan was using violence to kill or drive away leaders of the Republican opposition and to intimidate voters, too. The more I learn about Saunders the more I think that his biggest sin was not "leadership" of the Klan -- which was really decentralized and it's hard to know what leadership meant -- but more his intellectual and public leadership of the opposition to Reconstruction through his newspapers. Along those lines, an early twentieth century historian of Reconstruction in North Carolina -- J.G. de Roulhac Hamilton (the man for whom the UNC history department's building is named) -- "credits" Saunders as one of the two leaders of the movement against Reconstruction.
I'm going to talk a lot more about this soon, I hope. There is a lot to say about the hypocrisy of appeals to the "rule of law." And of course we see them in just about every despotic regime, from the beginning of time until the day before yesterday. But right now I have a question that derives from the self-righteousness of people like Saunders: what monument to the era of Reconstruction is most galling? Where is the gap between the person/event being memorialized and justice greatest. Such as, what monument is to someone who was celebrated as following the law when he (almost always) was really violating principles of law/justice? (Or you might replace someone with something in the last sentence.)
I'm thinking that one monument that should be on the short list for most galling is the one that is used as an illustration for this post. And this takes me to my second question: what's the monument that illustrates this post? (H/t Gerard Magliocca, who is the person who suggested I take this picture some years back.) Am I making this too easy by saying this will be coming down soon? H/t Adam Feibelman.