Seeing things in black and white: Dead segregated in southern U.S. war memorial

A plan to update a war memorial in Greenwood, South Carolina, led to the mayor being threatened with arrest — all because it segregates World War I and World War II veterans into racial categories, “white” and “coloured.” Though the American Legion, which owns the memorial, had given permission to update the plaque, the act of changing the plaques on the memorial would violate a South Carolina law, designed to protect the flying of the Confederate flag, which says no historical monument, erected by the state or by a local government, may be relocated, removed, disturbed, or altered without a two-thirds vote from state lawmakers.

I wonder if some of the opposition is racism hiding behind history.

Welborn Adams, mayor of Greenwood, who says he cried after being threatened with arrest

Days before the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ceremony, during which he planned to dedicate the new plaques, opponents threatened to try to have Adams arrested — perhaps on a misconduct in office charge — if he went forward with the new plaque. There are some that want to see the historical value of the memorial protected — a reminder that segregation did exist as recently as 50 years ago in parts of society — including historians. Several historians said they haven’t heard of a monument where fallen soldiers are separated by race anywhere else.

Segregation was the accepted social order of that time. If we alter the monument, we alter its historical integrity.

Eric Williams, Park Service historian