Ben Tillman Monument
Ben Tillman Monument Removal
The Board of Trustees and Staff of Historic Columbia unequivocally support the resolution, sponsored by Representative Seth Rose, to remove the monument of Benjamin R. Tillman from the grounds of the South Carolina State House.
This monument must be removed because it conveys the State’s support of white supremacy in a space intended to represent and serve all citizens of South Carolina.
As we witness the continued violence perpetrated against Black Americans in our state and across the country, we must confront the state-sponsored memorialization of Benjamin R. Tillman on the State House grounds. Tillman was a white supremacist who used his powers as governor, and as a United States Senator, to tirelessly advocate for the violent subjugation of Black Americans, including promoting lynching as a credible form of law enforcement.
Over the last ten years, Historic Columbia has taken steps to dismantle the Lost Cause narrative and myths perpetuated by white supremacists during Reconstruction and beyond. We actively share more inclusive, honest narratives at the five city and county-owned sites we steward through robust programming and interpretation throughout Richland County. We work to bring to light stories that, for too long, have been kept in obscurity. Among these forward-facing projects is a recent grant-funded effort to contextualize the monuments at the South Carolina State House and to begin conversations about what, if anything, should happen to them. In conjunction with UofSC professors Lydia Brandt and Thomas Brown, Historic Columbia staff has begun to share a more nuanced history that explores why individuals, such as Benjamin R. Tillman, were honored at this site, and why the historic context for these monuments matters today.
As Dr. Brandt noted in a recent interview regarding the Tillman statue, “When we leave monuments up, when we leave buildings named after certain people—even if we are not the generation that named them or that put the monument up—if we maintain them, we are signaling we agree with them.”
To remove the Tillman statue will not erase his place in history. Historic Columbia has incorporated Tillman’s role in disenfranchising and terrorizing Black Americans in the new permanent exhibition at the Modjeska Monteith Simkins House, which will open this September. In actuality, the removal of a monument to white supremacy from the State House grounds delivers a powerful declaration at the start of what must be a new, more equitable era in South Carolina’s history – one in which its Black citizens will not be erased.
Throughout his political career, which spanned from 1890 until his death in 1918, Benjamin R. Tillman used two methods to silence Black voices in South Carolina: intimidation through violence and the suppression of legal rights.Learn More
Since Columbia’s 1786 founding, the grounds of the South Carolina State House have grown into a 22-acre complex featuring 7 buildings and more than 30 monuments. South Carolinians have constructed, altered, and reconsidered this space for more than 230 years—and continue to do so today.Learn More
During the course of four centuries, Columbia’s black community transformed itself from that of a predominately enslaved population to a society whose members overcame the restrictions of Jim Crow and charted the course of the Civil Rights era. Join us on a tour to learn their names, their stories, and their legacies.Learn More