A task force appointed by Asheville City Council and Buncombe County commissioners voted Thursday to recommend the removal of the 65-foot high Vance Monument from downtown Asheville's Pack Square.
The vote was 11-1. The recommendation now goes to both city council and the board of commissioners, who will take it up at their next meetings. Buncombe County commissioners meet next December 7th, and Asheville City Council the following day. Both will vote on the recommendation and 'determine next steps for removal logistics and funding sources' according to a press release.
The Vance Monument was finished in 1898, four years after the man it was dedicated to died. Zebulon Vance was North Carolina's Governor during the Civil War, and U.S. Senator after it until his death in 1894. He fought against the granting of full civil rights to Black Americans after the war. Before the war, he and his family owned enslaved people.
Over the summer, Asheville City Schools announced it would rename an elementary school in the city that is currently named for Vance. His birthplace outside of Weaverville is a state historic site. Vance is also honored by statues at the North Carolina Capitol in Raleigh and in statuary hall in the U.S. Capitol
The task force was created in June following protests after the killing of George Floyd. Pack Square around the Vance Monument saw a week of protests that culminated with the group Black AVL Demands calling for the removal of all three Confederate monuments in the square. A plaque bearing the likeness of General Robert E. Lee in front of the Vance Monument, and a memorial to Confederate soldiers outside the Buncombe County courthouse, were removed earlier this summer. The Vance Monument was also fully shrouded for a brief time over the summer, but the plastic covering was cut after a month, leaving just the scaffolding still up.
"Black and African-American residents as well as other residents of the City of Asheville and Buncombe County have issued a clear call to remove the Vance Monument due to the harm it continues to impose on our community,” said task force co-chairs Oralene Simmons and Deborah Miles in a statement. “By removing the monument, we are joining southern cities from Richmond to Raleigh to New Orleans to address the symbols that linger from the Civil War and Jim Crow that foster hate and racial terrorism. We want Black and African-American residents and visitors to feel welcomed in our downtown. We hope that the removal of the Vance Monument will begin the healing process for the Black, African-American and Indigenous individuals in Asheville."
The task force voted on three recommendations - removing the monument, relocating it, or repurposing it in some form. All but one member voted for removal. Ben Scales voted for repurposing.