Confederacy-tied artwork comes down at Camden High School


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A student-created tile art piece depicting U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis side by side has been removed from a wall outside the library at Camden County High School in the wake of recent controversies in a number of cities over monuments to the Confederacy.

“In light of the recent controversy in Charlottesville and throughout the country, we have recently removed the painting from the wall outside the media center,” said Camden County High School Principal Billie Berry.

The controversy turned violent — and deadly — in Charlottesville, Va., when a woman was killed as a man with ties to white supremacist groups drove a truck into a crowd of counter-protestors opposing the gathering of white supremacists in the city. The white supremacist groups rallied in Charlottesville in opposition to the city’s removal of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Berry said the school had not received any complaints about the picture being displayed on the wall.

“While we have received no concerns or complaints about the artwork, we felt that it was best to be proactive and remove the painting to avoid potentially offending anyone,” Berry said.

And while the removal came amid the controversy over monuments to the Confederacy, Berry insisted the picture at the high school “was in no way designed to promote the confederacy” but rather was “simply a historical representation of the President of the United States and the Confederacy during the Civil War.”

The picture was one of several pieces of artwork that students created several years ago to not only adorn the walls in the school’s hallways but also to represent subjects taught at the high school, Berry explained. For instance, there is a Shakespeare-themed painting and other references to literary works outside English classrooms and a large mural depicting life on Earth in the science area, he said.

The picture of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis was the artwork selected to represent history.

Berry noted the picture itself has an interesting history.

“The picture was created several years ago as a joint project between Camden County High School art students and students from a high school in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania),” Berry said.

The depiction of the two presidents was fashioned from 2-inch squares — half of them painted by Camden students and the other half created digitally by the Pittsburgh students.

“The students communicated daily with one another using Skype while working on the project,” Berry said. “Upon completion, our students mailed half of the painted squares to Pittsburgh and the students in Pittsburgh mailed half of the digital squares to Camden. Each school then pieced together the squares and the art work was displayed in both schools.”