A small-town Indiana church is reeling after their statue of Lucy Higgs Nichols, an escaped slave and Civil War nurse, was defaced with “BLM” graffiti last week.
Rev. LeRoy Marshall, who is pastor of the historic, majority-black Second Baptist Church in downtown New Albany, Indiana, told The Daily Wire that he nevertheless hopes good will come out of the situation, which he said has shocked his small congregation and the wider community.
The Lucy Higgs Nichols statue was desecrated by an unknown vandal who fled on a bicycle during the early morning hours of July 3, exactly one year after it was first unveiled in front of the church that once served as a stop along the Underground Railroad. The 10-ton statue, carved from Indiana limestone, commemorates one of the most celebrated figures in the history of New Albany, a city along the Ohio River where Nichols settled after the Civil War.
Born in 1838, Nichols escaped from a Tennessee farm in 1862 with her young daughter, Mona, and traveled several miles to the Union line across the Hatchie River. She joined the 23rd Indiana Infantry Regiment as a nurse and followed them throughout the war, eventually taking part in the victorious Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, D.C.
Beloved by the troops who referred to her as “Aunt Lucy,” Nichols was the only woman to receive an honorary induction into the Grand Army of the Republic, and she was buried in an unmarked grave in New Albany with full military honors in 1915.
Vandal paints 'BLM' on New Albany statue celebrating woman who escaped slavery https://t.co/onOaHnZ3eC pic.twitter.com/m1QbrzMtQJ
— WDRB News (@WDRBNews) July 3, 2020
BLM out of control.
African American Lucy Higgs Nichols fleeing slavery with her infant daughter in her arms pic.twitter.com/rTf1aAFI1T
— I seek facts NOT Truth (@seek_not) July 10, 2020
“Obviously we were very upset about it,” Marshall said of his community’s response to the statue’s vandalism, which has prompted a GoFundMe to support the installation of more surveillance cameras around the church. “It seems to be a trend all over the country, but in a small town like New Albany, most people don’t think that something like this could happen. We’re well aware it’s a sign of the times.”
Marshall went on to explain how “very disturbing” it was that the turmoil roiling the country reached his 25-member congregation. “These kind of things really are setbacks for us during the pandemic, when some of our folks aren’t working.” He said that given the circumstances already straining his community and the entire country, the apparently racist act against the Nichols statue is “really more of a problem even than it would have been isolated by itself,” adding, “We’re praying that things get better, because if they don’t, I don’t how much more we can take.”
Marshall is nevertheless thankful at the opportunity the incident has offered for churches nationwide to join with his in speaking out against the problems afflicting American culture. “We have been just flabbergasted,” he said regarding the number who have reached out to him in the past week, ranging from Catholics and Presbyterians to representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “If you’re asking what’s going to come out of it, I think the churches are going to wake up, that we need to be saying something about what’s going on.”
“I can’t speak for other churches,” Marshall said, “but I do say the church needs to be saying something. It’s been crickets, silent, about what’s going on. I think if anybody has something to say, it should be the church first. If you’re talking about justice, we believe that justice starts right here at the church. And as Christians, that’s what we believe. So why we’ve been so silent, I have no idea.”