Oklahoma woman fights to preserve Confederate monument

DURANT, Okla. - The monument with a confederate soldier looking out over the town has stood for 100 years in front of the Bryan County Courthouse.

As monuments like it are coming under fire around the country, it is finding help from an unlikely ally.

“I’m trying to at least hold on and to claim the history and the heritage that is mine, not just white folk. But, that heritage belongs to me, too,” said Arlene Barnum.

If you see Barnum, you might do a double take.

She’s a black woman wearing a confederate flag on a necklace.

“I’ve been run off the road. I’ve been pushed on, spit on,” Barnum said.

But, Barnum said she doesn’t let it bother her.

To her, the flag and the monument are symbols of heritage, not hate.

Two of her ancestors fought for the confederacy; one was white, one black.

“He was the one that dug up the trenches to bury the confederates that died in the Battle of Mansfield," she said.

Now, Barnum has turned her attention to the confederate monument in Durant.

Two weeks ago, when protestors were supposed to show up and destroy the monument, she was one of dozens out there defending it.

“We were prepared to protect, because it is on government property or public property,” said Bryan County Commissioner Ron Boyer.

Boyer said cameras on the courthouse keep careful watch over the soldier.

He said most in the area do not see the statue as a symbol of racism.

“It’s not glorifying anybody. All it’s saying is 'We did this. We’re not proud of it. Let’s don’t do it again,'” Boyer said.

Barnum is also fighting for the preservation of the crumbling monument, starting a fundraising site to raise the $10,000-$15,000 it will take to fix it.

“This is erected in the memory of those who lost their lives for the southern cause. Then, I can say they’re talking about one of my great great grand daddy’s, too,” Barnum said.

And, she said, no matter the pressures, she’ll continue her mission of preserving her southern heritage.

So far, Barnum has raised a little more than $2,000.