Tyrrell County residents sue to have “Faithful Slaves” monument removed from courthouse

COLUMBIA, N.C. (WITN) – Residents of one Eastern Carolina county have filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit over a monument at their courthouse.

The Concerned Citizens of Tyrrell County filed the lawsuit today against the five county commissioners.

“We spoke with the county commissioners and told them our point of view on how this is a violation of the equal protection clause because of racist language,” said Emancipate NC Attorney & Organizer, Jaelyn Miller. “They kept insinuating they were going to have a vote on it, but nothing ever happened.”

The Confederate monument outside the courthouse has the south-facing side inscribed “In Appreciation of Our Faithful Slaves” while the statute of a Confederate soldier stands on top of the monument.

“There are a lot of confederate monuments out there that are in appreciation of the confederacy or in appreciation of specific confederate soldiers,” Miller said. “There’s none in the country on public land that express an explicitly racist message.”

The lawsuit says it is the only courthouse monument in the United States that includes that type of language.

The monument was erected in 1902, according to the lawsuit, and was funded by a local slaveholding family.

The group says for years it has tried to get the county to relocate the monument but with no luck.

“Tyrrell County is our home. We view our decision to bring this case as doing right by our community,” said Joyce Sykes Fitch, Secretary of the Concerned Citizens. “This is the only place in America where you can go to a courthouse and see a public expression in support of the institution of slavery. It’s past time for it to come down.”

WITN has reached out to the attorney for Tyrrell County for comment on the lawsuit being filed, but we have not heard back from them yet.

Some believe county commissioners have been silent to avoid controversy.

“They don’t want to be seen as supporting this explicitly racist monument,” Miller said. “They now are going to be forced to defend this explicitly racist monument.”