Forrest County is going to have a public referendum on the location of the Confederate statues at the Forrest County Courthouse. I was born and raised Jewish in Hattiesburg in 1949. In my opinion, those statues need to be moved from the current location.
Most people seem to forget what those statues represent. In the 1950s and the 1960s, the Forrest County Courthouse was nationally known as the representative of southern resistance to Black voter registration. Circuit Clerk Luther Cox formulated the most famous question for the literacy test: how many bubbles are in a bar of soap? Luther Cox was the subject of one of the first Federal lawsuits for denial of voting rights to Blacks. Clerk Theron Lynd continued that tradition. Theron Lynd was also the subject of a major Federal lawsuit. Despite court orders to stop, both Cox and Lynd continued to deny voting rights to Blacks in Forrest County. Both Cox and Lynd knew that they could deny voting rights as long as those statues were in place. Those statues represented the backing of the majority of whites in Forrest County to deny voting rights to Blacks. Leaving those statues in a place of honor next to the Courthouse celebrates the racist behavior of Cox, Lynd, and most whites in Forrest County at the time.
Furthermore, leaving the statues next to the Courthouse dishonors the statue of Vernon Dahmer recently constructed on the other side of the Courthouse. Vernon Dahmer gave his life in the defense of voting rights for Blacks. Honoring the denial of voting rights dishonors the person who gave his life in defense of voting rights.
Some residents say that the statues merely honor the Confederate soldiers who gave their lives. Moving the statues allows them to serve that purpose without doing dishonor to the Dahmer and other Black residents of Forrest County who bravely stood in favor of Black voter registration.
Forrest County, the world is watching you. If you vote to leave the statues in their current location, you will be signaling to the world that you still believe in those principles of racism and segregation.
As William Faulkner wrote in “Requiem For A Nun,” “the past is never dead, it’s not even the past.” You can’t sweep away the original meaning of those statues by saying that they represent something else.
Those statues still represent racism and segregation, just as they did in the 1950s and 1960s.
Forrest County, now is the time to show the world that Forrest County is in the 21st century and not mired in the past, clinging to the ugliness. Vote to move the statues.
The world is watching.
I am watching.
Bruce Krell, Ph.D., lives in Beverly Hills, California.