North Carolina Law Review

University of North Carolina School of Law

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Chapel Hill, NC 27514

North Carolina’s Heritage Protection Act: Cementing Confederate Monuments in North Carolina’s Landscape

September 30, 2016

94 N.C. L. Rev. 2176 (2016) 

 

North Carolina enacted the Heritage Protection Act (“HPA”) in July 2015, less than two weeks after the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House. This law severely restricts the removal, relocation, or alteration of any monument or “display of a permanent character” located on public property. While it does not specifically focus on Confederate monuments, the HPA was enacted amidst cries for removal of Confederate monuments and rampant Confederate monument vandalism. Therefore, many observers have inferred that the purpose of this legislation is the protection of these monuments, an inference that has had significant implications for the heated public debate surrounding the statute. As the public debate over Confederate monuments continues, many questions about this new law remain unanswered.

 

This Recent Development argues that the North Carolina HPA creates a lack of accountability on behalf of the state legislature, usurps powers of local governments, and engenders confusion as to its proper scope. Consequently, the North Carolina General Assembly should modify the HPA by removing the illusory delegation to the Historical Commission; clarifying that the Act clearly applies to only state-owned property rather than both state and municipally-owned property; and removing the catch-all provision that applies the Act to all “display[s] of a permanent character.” Furthermore, the legislature should include a provision allowing for the erection of plaques that contextualize these monuments within local history so that the messages the monuments are intended to convey are clear.

 

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