Gregg Kelley, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org, 202-319-1070
Edith Turner, President, Mathews County NAACP MathewsCounty@gmail.com, 757-344-5388
MATHEWS COUNTY, VIRGINIA – A statue venerating the Confederacy stands on the lawn of the Mathews County Courthouse. In a move designed to prevent Mathews County from ever deciding to remove or relocate the monument and to encourage further displays of support for the Confederacy on the public square, the County is considering gifting the statue and surrounding land to private organizations such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy or the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The proposed transfer would strip the County of all control over the property and the monument, which stands in a prominent public square.
Today, the Mathews County NAACP demanded in a letter to the Mathews County Board of Supervisors that the Board halt the proposed transfer of the statue and property. Actively supporting the ongoing display of Confederate flags or other memorabilia on the Mathews Courthouse Square through the proposed transfer creates a hostile and unwelcoming environment for Black families in Mathews County and interferes with the rights of Mathews County residents. Deeding the monument and the land by the Board of Supervisors also would prevent citizens in the future from determining through local elections whether to relocate or remove the statue.
The Board’s proposed transfer sends an unquestionable message of support for Confederate values, including the white supremacy that institution embodied. This action would open the County to legal challenges under the federal and state laws, including the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the law firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, as counsel to the Mathews County NAACP, authored the letter to the Mathews County Board of Supervisors.
“It is the duty of the Mathews NAACP to speak out against injustice and to promote racial equality in our county. The continued presence of Confederate symbols that represent the idea of white supremacy is an insult to all fair-minded citizens of Mathews. If the Board of Supervisors deeds the Confederate statue and the land on which it is erected to Confederate groups, they will send the message that the people of color who live and work in the county are unwelcome and that Mathews County is a sanctuary for white supremacists,” said Edith Turner, President of the Mathews NAACP.
“It is shocking to think that, despite the move throughout the country and across Virginia to remove Confederate symbols as we realize the dangerous impact it has on Black communities, Mathews County would move backwards by aggressively protecting the monument and land dedicated to our nation’s shameful history of white supremacy,” said Kaitlin Banner, Deputy Legal Director at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
The letter to the Mathews County Board of Supervisors can be accessed here.