The Charleston History Commission made no decision Wednesday evening on what a new plaque on the John C. Calhoun statue in Marion Square would say.
The revised draft initially brought to the commission began, “The statue to John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) is a relic of the crime against humanity…” That line brought a lot of debate amongst the commission, going back and forth on if that line would be appropriate.
“The fact of the matter is if anyone was enslaved it was a crime against them and we’re talking about human beings, so therefore I would defiantly say slavery is a crime against humanity,” Damon Fordham said.
“Our job, responsibility was to put this into historical context not to degrade or vilify any person or group or anything,” another board member also said during the commission meeting.
The plaque would aim to tell the full story of Calhoun and role provide further context to Calhoun’s place in history.
“We want to put Calhoun in context," Charleston historian Robert Rosen said."He’s a very controversial person, has a lot of feeling that he defended slavery and brought about a lot of bad things and at the same time he’s a very historical figure.”
The idea of the plaque was in response to critics who called for the removal of the monument after the deadly violence at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
“I think there is a movement per say," said Chair of the Charleston Historical Commission Harlan Greene."We may be unique in the fact that the thought is we’re adding to statues and not detracting or taking down statues that people might seem offensive. But I think it's a larger movement across the world, and people are trying to help their citizens learn what these monuments mean.”
The commission will meet again in December to try and get a final draft of the plaque.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg sent a letter to the commission in August, asking it to come up with the wording for a plaque which, "...will describe who Calhoun was and clearly elucidate his views on racism, slavery, and white supremacy."
The final draft of the plaque will then be sent to the City Council for approval.