RANDOLPH COUNTY — A month after Randolph County Chairman Darrell Frye told commissioners and residents at the regular October meeting that a Confederate statue will not deter the board from continuing with crucial projects, several residents sounded off in November.
Mikayla Trogdon, a Randolph County resident and graduate of a Historically Black College or University, expressed concern with the board of commissioners’ perceived lack of appetite for action on removal of the statue outside the Old Randolph County Courthouse. Trogdon described the prevalence of complaints of a lack of cultural identity among her Black peers who have experienced dissonance in the rural Southern county.
“ ‘I can’t wait to leave this town,’ ” Trogdon recalled hearing her colleagues say. “ ‘When I graduate college, I’m never coming back.’ … These are just a few examples of the words I consistently heard among my peers growing up, and more often than not, it was my Black peers who uttered these words.”
Trogdon believes the county is losing many members of its younger generation, as students of color sometimes feel their “only chance of success was getting out and never looking back.” To explain some of those hardships, she pointed to a series of culturally-relevant historical details that lend a less-than-favorable outlook on how the county’s history could impact its future.
Trogdon cited Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4 of the Confederate Constitution, which stipulated that “no bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.” Trogdon, who said the document made it impossible to outlaw “negro slavery” also lamented the county’s place in history that recorded the death of Black men.
At least 14 men from Randolph County were executed for refusing to join the Confederacy, according to Trogdon’s research. Others, she said, were sent to salt mines and forced to work hard-labor jobs. Thousands of slaves, Trogdon said, were bought and sold in Randolph County.
In response to commissioners’ suggestion that residents focus on unity and diversity in the county, as well as an inability to take action at this time, she said that the wait could lead other graduates to instead opt for communities with a melting pot of identification and representation.
“It is my belief that some of Randolph County’s key historical events and politics helped to paint a narrative for many young African American students to believe that they can never find their place here,” Trogdon said. “While you may not realize it, for some of my Black peers who leave Randolph County and vow to never to return, a part of the disconnect is the lack of identity with community and returning to a hometown whose long-standing monument is a tribute to its Confederate allegiance.”
Other residents indicate that the historical significance of the 106-year-old statue outweigh any drawbacks of its presence. Alan Lamb was one such resident who offered that because of the courthouse’s historic designation, it is already the ideal location for a statue of this kind.
“Our monuments are here for the preservation of history,” Lamb said. “These people left their homes to fight for the second independence of our nation. They were not a bunch of slave owners who went to go fight. They all had their reasons. Some were actually drafted. A majority of them were not slave owners, and that is really not the issue of our Confederate history. I think our monument should stay there.”
After Lamb concluded his remarks, Trogdon approached the podium to present her findings. In what may or may not have been an indirect response to the points Lamb and others made prior to her time before commissioners, Trogdon countered the representation of historical perspectives.
“The continual dismissive nature of this matter paints the picture to African Americans that me and my peers and our significance are less valued, that our voices are not heard or appreciated in Randolph County,” Trogdon said. “The precedent has been set that issues of race and equality can wait until later. … It would be a travesty for Randolph County to be a place where young Black professionals refuse to come or return to.
“It is a symbol of your heritage, not mine.”
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.