On Thursday evening, the Demosthenian Literary Society debated a resolution to remove a portrait of Confederate Army leader Robert E. Lee from the top floor of their 200-year-old debate hall. The resolution arrived on the agenda after violence erupted at a rally protesting the removal of a statue of the Confederate General in Charlottesville, Virginia. The debate hall was packed to the brim with society members, alumni, press, and guests eager to hear arguments for and against the removal of the portrait.
Demosthenian Historian Warren Smith was the first member to take the floor, arguing in favor of removal. “I am not advocating in the slightest that we erase history,” Smith professed. “I am advocating that we make history. That we become the generation of Demosthenians that elevate a rhetoric of truth, love, and understanding, not a rhetoric of hate.” Smith was among the plethora of Demosthenians who voiced their support for the resolution.
Demosthenian Nolan Hendricks was one of the few people in the room who opposed the resolution. Hendricks explained, “ While I have no doubt that the original Demosthenians who hung this portrait on the wall were within themselves wrong … were within themselves racists, like most of the student body who attended this university at the time, and we should acknowledge and be aware of that fact. But, we should not take down a portrait because of outside pressures towards us.” The “outside pressures” to which Hendricks was referring are recent calls made by local and national government officials to remove Confederate statues and monuments from public view.
After about an hour and a half of debate, Demosthenian Society President Alanna Pierce moved forward with a vote on the resolution. With 27 “yays” and no “nays” the resolution passed unanimously, and society members promptly removed the portrait from its long-held position on the wall.
The recent horrors in Charlottesville have invigorated national debate on the legacy of Confederate monuments, and it did not take long for the debate to find its way into the UGA Demosthenian Society’s agenda. The predictable result of the motion was the end of Robert E. Lee’s presence in Demosthenian Hall.
— Connor Foarde is Campus News Editor at The Arch Conservative.