By Evette D. Champion
Unless you have been living under a rock, you may be aware of the atrocity that took place at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C. last month. Dylann Roof murdered nine people and is now behind bars, and rightly so. However, how you would feel if the city officials erected an 8-foot tall statue at the statehouse to honor the man? You would be pretty upset, right? Well, prepare to be upset because that is exactly what the state of South Carolina is doing; albeit not for Dylann Roof, but for another racist.
Benjamin Ryan Tillman, also known as Pitchfork Ben, has numerous credits to his name as he was a popular politician, successful farmer and wealthy land owner. He was one of the founding fathers of a university and even was considered to be a potential Democratic presidential candidate after a successful career as South Carolina’s governor and a US Senator. Sounds like a good guy right? Not quite.
Much like Roof, Tillman played a large role in the death of African Americans. Tillman was involved in the murder of an #African American senator, Simon Coker, while he was on his knees, reciting a prayer. Tillman justified the slaying by saying that although it looks like a “ruthless and cruel thing […] it involved everything we held dear, Anglo-Saxon civilization included.”
The similarities between Roof and Tillman goes much further than who they have killed. Roof supposedly said that it was necessary to kill the African Americans because they “rape our women” and they are “taking over our country.”
Tillman said something eerily similar. He said that Southern white folk should “lynch any African American who would go about ‘gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters.’” Sounds pretty much like what Roof said, right?
What is even worse, Tillman was proud and unabashed about his racism. He and other white supremacists done all they could to prevent African American’s from voting. Tillman said they went so far as to stuff the ballot boxes and even shot the #black voters.
The event he was speaking of was the Hamburg Massacre in 1876. Tillman said he and his militia murdered black Republicans in order to “strike terror,” which left “seven dead Negroes lying stark and stiff.”
The statue that stands on the Statehouse grounds was unveiled in 1940, and although there was a bill to have to statue removed, it stalled in 2008. Not only is there a statue in his honor, but the clock tower at Clemson University is named after him.
Despite efforts to have the tower renamed, the board of trustees voted against the proposal in February 2015.