Group calls on city of Charleston to find home for Calhoun monument

In an open letter, the American Heritage Association is calling on the city of Charleston to find a permanent home for the John C. Calhoun monument.
Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 11:16 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2023 at 9:56 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In an open letter, the American Heritage Association is calling on the city of Charleston to find a permanent home for the John C. Calhoun monument.

American Heritage Association President Brett Barry gave a letter to Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and members of city council asking for them to open discussion on the future of the monument.

“This June 24th will mark three years since the monument’s partial destruction and removal from public view,” the letter states. “The time has come to resolve this issue and find a permanent home for what is left of this significant piece of Charleston’s historic and artistic inheritance.”

The statue was removed from Marion Square in Charleston in June 2020 after a unanimous vote from the Charleston City Council, a month after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

In the letter, the AHA expresses its desire to place the statute on state park property in the Charleston area.

“We think a fair compromise would be putting it on state property in the Charleston area that way people that want to go see it can but at the same time for those that don’t appreciate the monument it’s out of the center of town on the peninsula, so we think I’d be a reasonable compromise”, Barry said. In November 2022, a lawsuit was filed against the city, Charleston City Council and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson claiming the state’s Heritage Act was violated when the statue was removed.

Days after the removal, Wilson published an opinion that the Heritage Act did not apply to the monument because it was placed on private property and a provision of the Heritage Act was that monuments be in a public area.

Additionally, the first provision of the law protects “war monuments and monuments for Native Americans and African Americans.” In his 2020 opinion, Wilson said that “John C. Calhoun does not fall under any of those categories.”

The lawsuit asked to prevent the city from transferring the statue to “any party outside of the jurisdiction of the State of South Carolina” and instead return the monument to its original place or another agreed-upon place within the city of Charleston.

As recently as February 2022, the city had been in talks with the South Carolina State Museum to move the statue to Columbia.

The American Heritage Association thinks Columbia would be too far, and the monument belongs outdoor in the city of Charleston.

City of Charleston spokesman Jack O’Toole says the American Heritage Association’s lawsuit against the city was impeding progress on those talks with the museum.

“As was widely reported in February of last year, the city and the State Museum were working out the details of a plan to display the statue at the museum in Columbia. Unfortunately, that plan was derailed by the lawsuit, which cast a legal shadow over the statue’s ownership. Long story short, as long as the parties are suing the city over the statue, the city can’t do what it is being asking it to do in this petition.”

Barry says they had a good reason for refilling.

“It was filed because we don’t think the city has a right to decide this on their own and they broke the trust agreement and so we would like folks that wish to preserve this piece of Charleston history to come together, and hopefully chart a pathway forward.”