Now it had arrived, the final morning that the statue would stand above the grounds of North Carolina’s Capitol. The moment had arrived after three weeks of protests that began here, and across the country, after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
On Friday night, protesters here had torn down the statues of the two Confederate soldiers near the base of the monument. The protesters dragged those statues through the streets of downtown. They hung one from the pole of a stoplight at the corner of Hargett and Salisbury Streets. They deposited the other outside the courthouse, like bounty hunters delivering a runaway criminal.
On Saturday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ordered the rest of the monument to be removed, along with others that honored the Confederacy. Carly Prentis Jones and Shana Tucker, two friends and musicians, did not want to miss the moment when the statue that stood the tallest stood no more. They arrived downtown around sunrise on Sunday morning.
“We didn’t want to miss anything,” said Jones, 34.
Tucker, a professional musician, brought her cello. Jones, a vocalist, carried a microphone. They both wore long dresses.
They sat in chairs on a sidewalk across the street from the First Baptist Church. They plugged in an amplifier and made music, off and on, for about two hours. Slowly, the sun rose higher in front of them. The shadow of the monument grew shorter, but the women, both Black, had long become familiar with how far that shadow stretched.
Jones grew up in Raleigh. Her grandfather taught at St. Augustine’s University, a historically black university near downtown. Her father was part of the first class that integrated Enloe High School. Jones could recall childhood memories of walking past Raleigh’s Confederate monuments, and she could describe how those times made her feel. Now she was describing what brought her here on Sunday morning, near the crane in front of the monument.
“My family, along with so many Black families here, in North Carolina, have helped build this country,” she said. “And so (I’m) just glad to see this go. And so we wanted to serenade the statue goodbye. It just felt right.”
I can’t even imagine how right it felt.