Two Upstate Republican state representatives are co-sponsoring a bill that would recognize the contributions of African Americans who served in the Confederate military during the Civil War.
State Reps. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, and Mike Burns, R-Greenville, pre-filed a bill that would establish a commission to design an African-American Confederate veterans monument.
The commission also would be charged with promoting historical awareness in public schools.
In 2015, both Republicans against removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. However, in the wake of the racially motivated slaying of nine black parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, the GOP-controlled Legislature voted to move the flag to a museum.
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Chumley said the flag represents an historic period that should be recognized. He said his interest in recognizing African Americans from that period came from his respect for history.
“We came to the realization there was a lot we didn’t know about the war and their sacrifices,” Chumley said. “These people were heroes and forgotten heroes.”
The pre-filed bill states that as late as the 1920s, many African-American Confederate soldiers still drew Civil War pensions, but their contributions have been excluded from history taught in public schools.
“While there is representation of those African Americans from South Carolina who took up arms for the Union, there is nothing to show the contributions, sacrifices and honor of their Confederate counterparts,” the bill states.
Others are critical of the proposal.
College of Charleston history professor Adam Domby has written that the 1920s-era pensions were paid out to enslaved workers who served in Confederate camps, often as body servants to their white masters, rather than black Confederate soldiers.
Chumley said some critics have claimed the bill is “a backdrop” for an attempt to bring the Confederate flag back to the State House grounds.
That is not the case, he said.
“I think (the African-American monument) will be a real plus for South Carolina,” he said. “That period of history needs to be taught.”