By Carla Charter
NORTH AUGUSTA, SOUTH CAROLINA – Meriwether Monument in J.C. Calhoun Park was erected to honor Thomas McKie Meriwether, who died at 24 years of age after being struck in the head by a bullet during the Hamburg Riot of July 1876. The Hamburg Riot was a conflict occurring when armed white men attempted to take control of a predominantly black town of the same name. Not mentioned on this obelisk are the seven black men killed — James Cook, Allen Attaway, David Phillips, Albert Myniart, Moses Parks, Hampton Stephens and Nelder John Parker.
The words on the monument promote white supremacy. Describing Meriwether, it states “he exemplified the highest ideal of Anglo-Saxon civilization. By his death he assured the children of his beloved land the supremacy of that ideal.” It also states “in the maintaining of those civic and social institutions which the men and women of his race had struggled through the centuries to establish in South Carolina.”
When concerns about the troubling sentiments the obelisk represented were raised Mayor Robert Petitt decided to address these concerns. Petit formed a committee of six members, three White members and three African American members to learn about the history of the monument and propose ideas as to what could be done about it.
Due to South Carolina law, it was believed the monument cannot be taken down, as it may be protected under South Carolina’s Heritage Act, which prevents the removal of certain historical monuments from public property.
So instead the committee proposed another idea, to make the monument part of an educational piece in the park. Among the recommendations made in the committee’s report included recognizing the seven black men killed, as well as erecting other features in the park including sculptures or plaques, providing additional context about the Hamburg Massacre, Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era.
The proposal has been submitted to the North Augusta City Council and now awaits their action.