At first glance the memorial -- which sits along Main Street in Greenwood, South Carolina -- just seems like another group of plaques and statues commemorating those who have given their lives in service to our country. Upon a closer look though, one finds that the names on the plaques are separated into two categories: “white” and “colored.”
And for Welborn Adams, the mayor of Greenwood, the plaques are overdue for a touch-up.
According to the Associated Press, the city’s mayor believes that the bronze plaques and remnants of the South’s dark past “should be changed in the spirit of equality.”
However, when he proposed to put up the new plaques, Adams was stopped by a state law which forbids altering historical monuments in any way without approval from legislators.
Many historians believe that the plaques are an important reminder of the former segregated United States military.
"Segregation was the accepted social order of that time," said Eric Williams, 32-year veteran historian of the U.S. Park Service. "If we alter the monument, we alter its historical integrity."
According to Adams, he had asked other cities in South Carolina if they had similar memorials but no one else did. Numerous historians also came out to say that they have not heard of a monument where soldiers were separated by race.
The local American Legion, who own the memorial, told the mayor that he could change the plaques if he raised $15,000 privately. After taking out a loan and attaining 43 private donors, Adams had the money and planned to change out the plaques so they could be dedicated on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
However, days before MLK Day, dissidents threatened Adams with arrest if he tried to change the plaques. Adams told reporters that he cried in his office the day his lawyer told him that his opponents were right about the law.
For now, the mayor will have to wait for the Legislature to act. His plans to change out the plaques and move the old ones to the county museum will have to wait.
"I am fully aware this is much tougher than I ever expected," Adams told reporters. "But it's the right thing to do."