- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 21, 2003

BOWLING GREEN, Va. (AP) — A judge has dismissed an NAACP lawsuit filed about the Caroline County Board of Supervisors’ refusal to place a black-history monument on the courthouse lawn, saying he found no evidence of racism in the board’s decision to erect a multicultural monument instead.

“I don’t think there’s any question there should be minority recognition,” retired Circuit Judge Walter J. Ford said Thursday. “I don’t think race belongs in it.”

The Caroline branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People argued that the board held the proposed black-history monument to a more stringent standard than other recent additions to the courthouse square: a veterans memorial and a mural depicting the Union occupation of Bowling Green during the Civil War.

The attorney for the county said supervisors gave the proposal a fair hearing in November 2000 before instead approving a monument, as yet unbuilt, to recognize the contributions of not only blacks, but Quakers and other residents as well.

Some supervisors said they objected to the black-history monument because it would have mentioned Gabriel’s Rebellion, a violent 1800 slave revolt.

Lydell Fortune, an attorney for the county NAACP, argued that other monuments on the courthouse lawn, including one of a rifle-holding Confederate soldier erected in the early 1900s, commemorate violence.

C. Michael DeCamps, an attorney for the county, told the judge that in contrast to aspects of the other monuments, “Gabriel’s was not a declared war. It was a civil rights insurrection.”

Mr. Fortune countered that Gabriel was inspired by Revolutionary hero Patrick Henry’s famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Some supervisors had said space in the square was limited and that a multicultural monument would be more economically feasible.

The judge said he found no evidence that the board acted “arbitrarily and capriciously.”

Mr. Fortune said the NAACP had not decided whether to appeal the ruling.

The board recently solicited bids for the multicultural monument.



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