This month, a fiery newly elected Black mayor called on North Carolina governor Roy Cooper to declare a state of emergency in his overwhelmingly Black town of less than 3,000 residents in the eastern part of the state.

Enfield mayor Mondale Robinson says he was targeted with death threats from the Ku Klux Klan soon after he knocked down a Confederate memorial that had stood in a public park for over 90 years.

Robinson told the INDY last week he received an email from the KKK warning him to “watch your back.”

“We need our governor to lock arms with this community, ensuring that our solemn way of life isn’t interrupted by white supremacy,” Robinson, who was elected mayor four months ago, said during a September 6 press conference.

“Our small police force does not have the resources,” Robinson explained. “The police force has the needed resources for their day-to-day interaction with the community. But the added need to prevent racialized violence is beyond our capacity and must be addressed by our state.”

Robinson also called on the state attorney general’s office to investigate the threats.

A spokesperson for the governor said the secretary of the state’s Department of Public Safety met with Mondale and local officials on Monday to “offer assistance and hear their concerns.”

“The Governor’s Office, along with the Attorney General’s Office in consultation with the district attorney, requested the State Bureau of Investigation look into the allegations,” said Mary Scott Winstead, the governor’s deputy communications director. “The governor condemns hate crimes and threats of violence.”

Robinson’s startling requests came in the aftermath of his decision weeks earlier to knock down a 10-foot-tall monument that was a gift to the town from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1928.

The monument stood in Randolph Park and was originally dedicated to Confederate soldiers and veterans of World War I, according to the UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries’ Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina collection.

The memorial, according to the UNC library, was constructed with Georgia marble and features bronze tablets.

“Two small walls extend bilaterally from the center square column, and one side supports a drinking fountain,” according to the UNC library.

Robinson last week told the INDY that the monument rankled him even when he was a child, before he understood what the Confederacy was all about because that part of history wasn’t taught in schools.

“There were segregated water fountains at the monument,” he says. “The bowl for white people is still standing. The bowl for Black people is rusted and the faucet is gone. That’s how little they cared about our people.”

Indeed, the UNC library notes that during segregation, the memorial featured a “fountain with two drinking spouts, one for whites and one for non-whites. The fountain for non-whites has been removed, but its pedestal and spigot hole remain.”

More pointedly, the UNC library’s description of the memorial notes that “the Confederate flag is carved into the marble on one side of the center column.”

Just beneath the Confederate flag, inscribed upon a bronze plaque are the Civil War dates 1861–1865 and the following:


It was a Sunday afternoon on August 21 when Robinson arrived at Randolph Park intending to knock the memorial down.

He was armed with a household hammer.

“I was beating on it, but it was a formidable opponent,” Robinson says. “I called somebody with a tractor, and we knocked that motherfucker over in 10 seconds.”

Robinson says he cordoned off the toppled statue with the yellow caution tape normally used at crime scenes to prevent anyone from getting hurt, and then he went home.

Reaction to the toppled monument was immediate.

“Less than 12 hours later, I was notified that the SBI had launched an investigation that was sparked by the police chief, James Ayers,” Robinson says.

Then, Ayers resigned.

“He gave two weeks’ notice and said it was for political reasons and me dividing, not unifying, the community,” Mondale continues. “But the town at large was super excited.”

The INDY could not reach Ayers for comment.

Robinson says the death threats were immediate, too.

“At first there were racist-ass messages on Facebook,” he says. “Then someone put my personal information on white supremacist websites. I started getting mail at home and at my office, including ‘a KKK call to action’ to do something to me.”

Robinson says the SBI is investigating whether he committed an unlawful act, but he says the lawful removal of the memorial was long overdue. In 2020, after the police murder of George Floyd, the town’s Board of Commissioners “passed a resolution to get rid of the monument.”

But somehow, he adds, “the minutes from that meeting mysteriously disappeared.”

Robinson easily beat incumbent Wayne Anderson with more than 70 percent of the vote in May and was sworn in the following month.

“I told them we got work to do,” he said of his fellow board members. “When I came in, I put [the monument removal] on the August 15 agenda. I talked about the history of racism in this country, and how trauma can be passed down, and that we needed to get rid of it.”

The Enfield board approved removing the memorial by a four-to-one vote. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Kent Holmes.

Robinson recalls that Holmes objected to the memorial being torn down because there were white Enfield residents who did not know the historical significance of the thing.

“I told him you don’t get to determine what history is,” Robinson says. “You can’t rewrite what history means.”

Holmes could not be reached for comment.

The INDY also reached out to town commissioners Tracey Joyner, Bud A. Whitaker, Bobby Whitaker, and Kenneth Ward via emails and phone calls. None were available for comment.

If he had been born generations before, Robinson would have been known as a “race man”—someone cut in the mold of William Monroe Trotter or Ida B. Wells, who both devoted their lives working for the betterment of Black people.

Robinson was born and raised in Enfield, a tiny hamlet in Halifax County of about 2,348 people that’s about 95 miles east of Durham. Black Americans account for more than 85 percent of the population, with whites comprising nearly 13 percent and Native Americans at 2 percent. During its heyday Enfield was one of the world’s leading producers of raw peanuts. Today, more than 33 percent of its residents live below the poverty line and the median household income is a little under $22,000 a year.

Robinson was the seventh of 13 children, born to a mother who stopped school in the sixth grade and went on to earn her general education diploma and a father with a third-grade education.

“We struggled, borrowed, and suffered,” Robinson says. “I don’t know how in the fuck my parents pulled that magic off.”

Robinson says his daddy was convicted of a felony at age 17 after beating up a white man who attacked him and a family member and then leaving town after the sheriff warned him that some of the townsfolk wanted to lynch him.

“When he returned they gave him a felony conviction,” Robinson says. “He did whatever he could to take care of us—paving driveways, fixing roofs, fixing cars—but we barely had enough to eat.”

The financial instability meant the Robinson family frequently moved from one home to another.

“We struggled a lot,” he says. “I used to laugh and joke with people. I would tell them that I lived in every house in Enfield. Holes in the floor were so common, my friends didn’t blink when they came over. Some of my friends had to put a blanket up for a front door.”

Robinson graduated from high school and enrolled in the U.S. Marines in 1997. He was discharged in 1999 and enrolled at Catawba Valley Community College. He transferred to Livingstone College, where he earned a degree in political science in 2009. He briefly enrolled in graduate school at Alabama A&M in 2011. He then enrolled at the Wake Forest School of Divinity in 2012, and was accepted at the University of Arkansas law school in 2013. The same day that Robinson was set to begin law classes, he received word that one of his brothers had been murdered in Greenville.

“School took to the back burner for sure,” he says.

Robinson says he returned to Enfield last year but adds that he never really left. Robinson says he had no intention of running for mayor, but the incumbent “was ushering in gentrification.”

“One guy came here and bought 40 properties,” Robinson explains. “He’s paying a maximum of $5,000 for each property. They started tearing down the old houses and putting up houses that are selling for $200,000. The poverty rate here is 40 percent. The unemployment rate is more than 30 percent. I’m seeing cars with Pennsylvania and New Jersey tags, and they are pushing Black people from the resources in town out into the country. I decided that I needed to step up and run for mayor.”

Robinson scoffs at the assertion that Confederate memorials, like the Confederate flag, are about Southern heritage and pride of place and one’s ancestors fighting for a noble cause rather than being traitors who seceded from the United States for the ignoble cause of owning other human beings.

“You can’t show me a memorial in any other country that honors the enemy,” Robinson says. “Where is the memorial that honors the Japanese at Pearl Harbor? Show me the memorial that honors the Nazis in Germany. [The Civil War] was not about states’ rights. The Southern states seceded because the North refused to uphold the Fugitive Slave Act, or the idea that Black people were ordained by God to be nothing but workers and animals.” 

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