City And Art Space Discussing Whether to Allow Confederate Statue in Exhibit

LAXART, a Los Angeles nonprofit visual arts space, asked Charleston, South Carolina if they could borrow and display a statue of former vice president and pre-Civil War slavery advocate John C. Calhoun as part of an exhibit on the Confederacy, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

The Charleston Commission on History voted Wednesday to delay their recommendation to the city council until they learn more information.

According to WCSC, a South Carolina news channel, the commission is wary of the exhibit displaying Calhoun and his statue without what they believe to be the right amount of perspective and nuance.

LAXART Director Hamza Walker wrote the letter requesting the statue, saying the exhibit would "encompass the prospect of reparations, healing and a greater reckoning of America's past..." and would include several other monuments to the Confederacy that have been removed from public spaces in the last several years.

Charleston has owned the statue of Calhoun since 1885 when it was given the deed from the Ladies Calhoun Memorial Association. It was removed from Marion Square in Charleston in June 2020 amidst objections over Calhoun's pro-slavery beliefs during nationwide protests after the murder of George Floyd.

Walker wrote in his letter to the commission that although Calhoun died before the Civil War, the statue would be a valuable part of the planned 2022 exhibition because of his role in the "expansion and protection of slavery in the United States" and was in favor of South Carolina seceding from the Union before the war.

Calhoun served as secretary of war under President James Monroe, as well as vice president for John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

Charleston, John Calhoun Statue, Confederacy
The John C. Calhoun Monument in Marion Square on June 18, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. After Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg announced that the monument would be relocated the day before, demonstrators vandalized it. Charleston's History Commission voted Thursday to delay recommendation to the city council on whether to loan the statue to an art exhibit in Los Angeles art exhibit about the Confederacy. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

But commission member David McCormack had qualms with the proposal, saying, "It appears this exhibition will be a highly political, highly ideological event which is likely to continue to propagate an unnuanced view of John C. Calhoun."

"We as a commission have a responsibility to both the City of Charleston and the State of South Carolina to not allow the Calhoun statue to become a pawn in the hands of individuals and organization about which we know little and over which we have no control," McCormack added.

The statue's removal occurred five years after the slaying of nine Black parishioners in a racist attack at a downtown Charleston church.

In his letter to city officials, Walker said the exhibit would feature a group of "recently decommissioned Civil War monuments from throughout the United States" and said such statues are "physical manifestations of the Lost Cause belief."

Calhoun's support of slavery never wavered. He said in several speeches on the U.S. Senate floor in the 1830s that slaves in the South were better off than free Blacks in the North while calling slavery a "positive good."