COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (AP) – A statue of segregationist and former United States (US) Vice President John C Calhoun that was pulled from its perch high above Charleston almost two years ago still hasn’t found a new home, though a deal to move it to a museum may be in the works even as a lawsuit challenges its removal.
Charleston leaders and officials at South Carolina’s State Museum announced Monday that they have started talking about a deal bringing the statue to the Columbia museum, but details need to be hammered out and the City Council must agree to a long-term loan of the bronze figure of the staunch advocate for slavery.
Although the City Council agreed to remove the statue from its 30-metre-tall pedestal in the aftermath of a white Minneapolis police officer killing African American George Floyd in 2020, the council didn’t arrange its next home.
The Charleston Museum has already rejected the statue, saying Calhoun was not a Charleston figure and the three-metre-tall, 2,720-kilogramme statue is too big for its building.
A Los Angeles art museum proposed taking Calhoun’s statue to California to create an exhibit with other Confederate and segregationist monuments removed by governments.
Non-profit group LAXART said those pieces would be joined by contemporary works so people could discuss the role race and idolising racists from the past have on society today.
Charleston’s City Council appeared to be moving toward a vote on the proposal in December but backed off after criticism and a lawsuit filed by one of Calhoun’s descendants and a descendant of a member of the Ladies Calhoun Monument Association, which raised money to put up the statue in 1898.
The suit filed in January said letting the Los Angeles museum have Calhoun’s statue would “denigrate and demean” him.
It also said the statue was illegally removed under a state law called the Heritage Act, which requires the Legislature to approve moving or tearing down Confederate memorials, war statues and other monuments. The city has said it was within its rights because the statue was not on public property and wasn’t of a historical era covered by the law.
“The Heritage Act requires the city to restore the statue to the place where the city wrongfully took it down. Until the South Carolina Legislature specifically authorises a move to the state museum or any other site, the city’s actions are blatantly in violation of South Carolina law,” attorney Lauren Martel said in statement.