"It's a difficult issue and people have very strong feelings about these monuments, about whether they should stay... whether they should go."
Sheffield Hale says during three public meetings this month – the last on Monday – there was "robust discussion" about monuments, markers and street names in Atlanta with ties to the Confederacy.
At issue is whether they should be removed. The group was formed by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in the wake of the racially-charged violence in Charlottesville this summer.
Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center, is co-chair of this 11-member committee – made up of historians, civil rights and business leaders. The public has offered input.
Hale told WSB Radio some of what the committee plans to recommend to city leaders.
It considered the fate of monuments such as the Peace Monument in Piedmont Park, and the Peachtree Battle monument.
At issue, Hale says, are the Jim Crow-era monuments about reconciliation between the north and south – without involvement of African-Americans.
"So it was in that era and that context and because of the inscriptions on both of those monuments, the committee recommended that they be removed and put into storage," says Hale.
Piedmont Park's Peace Monument was defaced by protestors in August.
As for street names, the committee will recommend several for changes, including Confederate Avenue, Robert E. Lee, and John B. Gordon. Another 30 or so are being tapped for additional review.
What the group is not recommending for removal – certain monuments and markers in Oakland Cemetery.
"Those monuments which really reflect the early time of loss – Confederate loss – and they're in a cemetery or next to graves,” Hale says. “It was determined it was appropriate for those to remain.”
Hale adds, "The Oakland Cemetery is essentially an outdoor museum, and it's a place where you can really contextualize those monuments. And they are closely linked to the time of the burials."
These are only recommendations, and a first step of a long process for possible change. Hale says the committee's report will be rich in historical research to give context to its decisions.
Recommendations are due to Mayor Reed by November 23. Hale says the city will get the report as soon as possible.
Of this process to this point, says Hale, "the good part about it is that we've been able to have a civil discourse about it and to really get into the facts about the history of these monuments, and talk to them about it in a measured way."