Meriwether monument fate: ‘If history is taken away, it tends to die’

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:48 PM EDT
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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s been years of back and forth. But now a new court ruling could mean changes to the Meriwether monument in downtown North Augusta.

Wednesday night, the South Carolina Supreme Court changed a decades-old law making it easier to move or change historical monuments in the state. Before, lawmakers needed a two-thirds super-majority vote to take any action. Now they’ll just need the simple majority or more than half.

There are already some plans in the works for the Meriwether monument. We spoke with the city and many locals about what they would like to see happen. Right now the idea is to keep the monument right in the heart of North Augusta. But at the base of the monument is the other seven victims names in the Hamburg Massacre. Locals say they just want everyone represented.

Tucked back in the corner of North Augusta, the community of Carrsville holds historical significance.

“We’ve been over here all our lives. All our lives,” said Bettye Allen.

Allen has been in North Augusta for 20 years. Her father, John Meriwhether, lived here before her.

“Well it’s been here for quite awhile,” she said.

The Hamburg Massacre is something the older folk in this community are connected to.

“As far as I’m concerned about the monument up there, it can stay. But the guys that were with Mr. Meriwether, their names should be on the monument. Their names should not be left out. They died for a cause,” she said.

Now the South Carolina Supreme Court is making it easier for cities like North Augusta to change or move these monuments.

“I think they’ll leave it up to us. I think they’ll determine it’s a North Augusta decision,” said Milledge Murray.

Murray has worked with the city to figure out what’s next. They say adding the names of the other seven men and educational signs could help tell the whole story.

“I think that seven people unjustly lost their lives and they need to be represented,” he said.

We’ve seen protests for this monument over the past year. People calling for it’s removal.

“History is important and if history is taken away it tends to die,” he said.

We reached out to the city of North Augusta for comment. They say they are working with their legal team to determine what the next steps are for the monument.

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