‘Shocking’: Mural inside local library displays Confederate flag, images symbolizing slavery

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — For months, the NAACP has been asking Cabarrus County to remove a mural displaying the Confederate flag, soldiers and Native Americans in the county’s public library.

“I think now is the time for Cabarrus County to be a leader in this fight for justice, and righting the wrongs of the past,” said Jerl Hyman-Green, with the Cabarrus County Library System.

Channel 9′s Elsa Gillis said she couldn’t see the mural Thursday because it is displayed in an area she was told was currently closed to the public due to COVID-19.

The image of the mural was shared with Gillis, and she was told it’s housed in the auditorium of the public library location on Union Street.

“When I saw the mural, it was such a visceral reaction,” Hyman-Green said.

“Shocking at first,” said Amos McClorey, the local chapter president of the NAACP.

There’s a clear image of the Confederate flag and soldiers, religious imagery to the left, images of Native Americans to the right, and images that Dr. Spearman describes as symbolizing slavery.

“You have images of four, I think it’s four people who seem to symbolize slavery. These are images that are extremely offensive and dehumanizing to us as a people,” said Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, the president of the North Carolina NAACP.

“For children programs, adult programs, adolescent programs to be presented in a room that houses this monstrosity of a viewing, is criminal,” Hyman-Green said.

She said often the mural is covered up, but it is still there.

“Is this the history we choose as a county to embrace?” Hyman-Green asked. “We have a lot of history....that can absolutely be explored, yet this is what we have chosen.”

They’re all hopeful that action will be taken.

“We asked the County Commission back in September to start taking steps to remove it,” McClorey said,

“The NAACP believes that there is a place for them, but not there in the public library. There’s a place in a museum somewhere,” Spearman said.

A Cabarrus County representative told Channel 9 that the county has regular dialogue with the NAACP and that county leadership is open to talking about the mural. They said the mural was originally commissioned by the city of Concord in 1939 and was inherited by the county in 1998 when they took over the library building.

The county covered the mural with a screen in 2014. People can only see it by scheduling a presentation with the library historian.

Full statement from Cabarrus County:

“The County and our local NAACP have a longstanding relationship and regular dialogue. The Board of Commissioners and County leadership remain open to discussing topics of significance and possible solutions, including the mural.

“The City of Concord commissioned the mural in 1939 as part of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. Painted by North Carolina native James Augustus McLean, the mural was originally located within Memorial Hall. In 1977, the City of Concord built the current library facility and reinstalled the mural in its auditorium.

“The County inherited the mural in 1998 when the facility was deeded from the City of Concord to the County.

“In 2014, the County covered the mural with a screen. The mural, which is 50 feet wide, is not visible to employees or the public. Views of the mural are limited to those who schedule a presentation with the library historian, who provides context and answers questions.”