FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - South Florida has had some controversy over streets named after Confederate officers, but it has largely dodged the issue of racially charged monuments that has hit Charlottesville and other American cities -- until now.
A movement is growing momentum to remove a statue of former Florida Gov. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward from the main courthouse in the county named for him.
"It's a monument of divisiveness," said attorney Harold Pryor, president of the T.J. Reddick Black Bar Association.
Reddick is working to remove the statue out of the courthouse, and he already has an ally in Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein.
"Here we have an individual who believed in a separatist nation -- one for black people, one for white people," Finkelstein said.
The public defender is referring to Broward's separatist belief, voiced in a speech contained in the University of Florida archives -- that blacks be removed from America and be given their own country away from whites.
"The white people have no time to make excuses for the shortcomings of the negro," Broward wrote. "And the negro has less inclination to work for one and be directed by one he considers exacting."
Broward wrote that "hope of civilization and crystallization of the world depends upon the white race," and that he feared "the tension between the races will become so great that outbreaks will become frequent and harmful."
"I deem it best [that] the Congress of the United States purchase territory, either domestic or foreign, and provide means to purchase the property of negroes, at reasonable price, and to transport them to the territory purchased by the United States," Broward wrote, adding that the U.S. should then "organize a government for them of the negro race, to protect them from foreign invasion, and to prevent any white people from living among them in the territory, or to prevent the negroes from migrating back to the United States. I believe this is to be the only hope of a solution of the race problem between white and black."
"I am a fifth generation Floridian," Pryor said. "I don't think my ancestors deserved to go another country or to another territory."
Pryor said he wasn't tackling the larger issue of the county being named after Broward, whose best-known position was to drain the entire Everglades for development. He said the problem was that the Broward statue was in a prominent position to greet people -- many of them African-American -- on their way to felony court.
Finkelstein agreed, saying the statue belonged in a museum, not the courthouse.
"For African-Americans to walk by a statue of a man who didn't think they should live in this country on their way to a criminal courtroom is the wrong message indeed," Finkelstein said.
Pryor said he plans to set up a meeting with Chief Judge Jack Tuter, who didn't return a Local 10 News phone message for comment. Broward County State Attorney Mike Satz told Local 10 News that if people opposed the statue, he saw no reason to keep it up and would support taking it down.
Attorney and courthouse blogger Bill Gelin was the first to raise the issue.
"He wanted them out of the United States," Gelin said. "And mind you, this was happening 40 years after the Civil War when these issues were settled."
Pryor said he doesn't believe the statue issue will be divisive.
"I don't think this is a divisive issue. I actually think this is a unifying issue," Pryor said. "I think if you polled everyone around Broward County, I think an overwhelming majority would be for this monument being removed."
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