A lot has happened in Greenwood County since 1903. Some of it good, some not. Some, in fact, dark and unsettling marks on the young county’s history.
That was the year a monument was erected to memorialize the confederacy in downtown Greenwood. It yet stands beside the county courthouse, a soldier serving as a sentry of sorts keeping watch over the city and in stark contrast to the modern structure where justice is supposed to be carried out. Ostensibly, justice for all Greenwood County residents, regardless of skin color.
Since that time, Greenwood — both the city and county — have undergone many transformations. Downtown — now referred to as Uptown — was the central area where all business and commerce was carried out. There was no bypass, no mall, no substantial growth to the north and west as we know it today. At one point, the downtown area was, like so many downtowns, a ghost of itself. Many of the stores either closed or joined the ranks of those occupying mall and bypass space.
Since then, Greenwood’s city central has been fortunate to undergo significant rebirth. Gone are the A&P grocery store, the JC Penney retail store, Blyth Funeral Home, Western Auto and a host of other longtime businesses that served residents. But they have been replaced with new specialty shops, locally-owned restaurants and professional businesses.
Really, the point is simple. Communities change and grow. They experience renaissance. They welcome new business, industry and people. Their histories do not change while their makeup and faces do. It’s a process, an evolution that sometimes happens slowly, sometimes quickly. But it happens. Buildings that no longer serve a need well are replaced with new ones. Such was the case with the county’s courthouse.
There’s a bit of irony in the opposition to efforts to dismantle monuments such as the one that stands beside the courthouse, just as there is irony in the opposition to rid the state of the Heritage Act, which shackles the hands of local governments that want to bring about what they deem to be positive changes to its messages and landscape.
The irony is that those who cling to the Confederacy and to the Battle Flag like to skirt the topic of slavery and instead say it represented states’ rights. The Confederacy stood, they say, not so much in support of slavery but in defiance of the federal government and what it viewed as an overreaching control over states.
Those who yet tout the Confederacy stood for states’ rights are oddly willing to strip individual cities, municipalities and counties of their very rights to determine what statues and monuments they yet deem appropriate for this time.
The war is long over. Sadly, many want to continue to wage battles that tear us apart as a community, as a state and as a nation. It’s time to furl the flag, tuck monuments in museums and move forward. We no longer live in the 1800s, we no longer need to pretend to honor a false history that reminds our Black friends and neighbors of a time they were not even considered people, but rather were viewed as property.
Yes, much has happened in Greenwood County’s relatively short history. Much more can happen as we change moving forward into the future. It’s up to us to decide just how positive that change can and will be.