Greenwood: Racially segregated war memorial divides South Carolina town once again


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When the government called on them to leave their homes and fight overseas in two world wars, the men of Greenwood answered - black and white alike.

And when they fell in battle they were remembered on two separate lists, divided on racial lines.

Now, 70 years on, that segregated memorial is at the centre of a controversy that has again divided the South Carolina town.

Greenwood’s mayor, Welborn Adams, has said the segregated memorial belongs to an ugly past and should be replaced. Others say the memorial is an historic monument and should be retained, however painful it may be.


The controversy has recently taken on a new edge after Mr Adams claimed that some of those who want to retain the monument may have preferred things when society was formally segregated.

“I think it’s important to show the families of those dead African Americans that we should see them all together,” Mr Adams told The Independent. “I think it’s also important to show that our town is not racially segregated anymore.”

Mr Adams efforts to replace the memorial with its separate lists has been hampered by a 2000 South Carolina law that removed the Confederate flag from the statehouse dome. The law also forbids altering historical monuments in any way without two-thirds approval from state legislators, the Associated Press said.

The memorial is owned by the American Legion post in Greenwood and is on city property. Mr Adams took out a loan to buy new plaques and thought it would be a simple task to replace them.


But days before he to unveil the new plaques, opponents threatened to try to have him arrested if he went ahead with his plan. Mr Adams said he cried in his office when the city’s lawyer told him that opponents were right about the law.

Mr Adams is now appealing to state politicians to vote to have the plaque changed.

At the same time, those who believe the plaque should remain and say it is an accurate record of Greenwood’s past, are not backing down

“Segregation was the accepted social order of that time,” Eric Williams, who spent 32 years as a historian with the US Park Service, told the AP. “If we alter the monument, we alter its historical integrity.”