Last summer, the director of the Orange County Historical Museum, Candace Midgett, brought before the Town of Hillsborough, a proposal to remove the words “Confederate Memorial” which were affixed on the building located at 201 North Churton Street. The building is owned by the town and is the current home of the Orange County Historical Museum. It was originally constructed during the 1930s as part of the WPA and with funding from the local United Daughters of the Confederacy. It was Hillsborough’s way of remembering her sons who served and died during the war of 1861-1865. In bringing the proposal before the Town’s Board, Midgett cited a visiting exhibitor’s hesitance to enter the building because the words made her feel unwelcome. Rogers was also concerned that poor visitor attendance at the museum was being caused by these controversial words.
Over the course of the next several weeks and more meetings, the Town decided to remove the words from the building. Local news coverage followed the story very closely and many in the community showed up in support of keeping the building as it was. However, in the wake of Dylan Roof’s acts in Charleston, the Board was swept up in the prevailing feeling, stoked by President Barack Obama, that Confederate symbols should be removed from public spaces. In addition to this feeling, the Board cited their discussions with close family and friends, and a community meeting where two people had expressed opinions in favor of removing the “Confederate Memorial Library” wording from the building. In short, the decision was a farce and based solely on the personal opinions of those close to the Board. It was carried out on the whim of a small group of officials who saw this as an opportunity to exert their power in the most hypocritical of ways.
The events in Hillsborough represent a relatively small battle with far-reaching consequences. After all, the removal of two words on the front of building that almost nobody enters does not seem like a major victory. However, for a town which relies on its history to survive, Hillsborough has shown itself willing to change that history in order to accommodate the peculiarly sensitive whims of an alien museum director. In the future, when even Revolutionary-era heroes are not safe, it will be just as easy for the town to ignore their legacy as well.
Those opposing the removal of the words from the building did not have the cohesion or resources to effectively fight the Town of Hillsborough and save this important memorial. Your donation to the NC Heritage PAC, however, can help thwart efforts like this to make history more “inclusive” by making it exclusive of our forefathers. Had the NC Heritage PAC been in place, the result may have been different. We need your support – donate today!!