Asheville City Council is scheduled to take a vote Tuesday on whether to remove the 65-foot Vance Monument from downtown's Pack Square. The decision will culminate a years-long push to remove from Asheville's main public space the obelisk which is dedicated to North Carolina's Civil War Governor and U.S. Senator during Reconstruction, who fought against civil rights for Black Americans.
After protests following the killing of George Floyd, both City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners created a task force to decide the future of the monument, including whether to remove it, recontextualize it, or repurpose it by taking Zebulon Vance's name off of it. That task force in November recommended by an 11-1 vote to remove the monument. Since then, City Council has pored over that recommendation and accepted bids for the contract to remove the monument. It has received five, which would cost the city anywhere from $114-thousand to $495-thousand. City officials estimate repurposing the monument would cost between $50-thousand and $70-thousand.
The most recent push to remove the monument started with the group Black AVL Demands, which at the end of a week of protests following the Floyd killing called for three Confederate monuments in Pack Square to be taken away. Two of those - a plaque with the likeness of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and a memorial to Confederate soldiers - were removed last summer. Both were much smaller than the Vance Monument, and were put into storage. If council votes to remove it, where the Vance Monument would go would become a big question that as of now still doesn't have an answer. One of the boards that supports the Vance Birthplace state historic site outside of Weaverville says it should not be relocated there.
Zebulon Vance is one of the most important figures in North Carolina history and politics. But his speeches against civil rights for Black Americans as a U.S. Senator, and he and his family's enslaving of people prior to the Civil War, has come into greater focus in recent years. That has led to his name being removed from an elementary school in Asheville and a high school in Mecklenburg County. There are still statues of Vance at both the North Carolina Capitol in Raleigh and the U.S. Capitol.