Tag: Confederate monuments

Dell Upton follows up on the theme of his current book, What Can and Can’t Be Said: Race, Uplift, and Monument Building in the Contemporary South (Yale University Press) by asking a team of individuals critically engaged with public art, memory, and the nation about the recent debates around Confederate monuments and efforts to recognize histories of lynching.

A monument leads an unhappy life. The best it can hope for is to molder quietly under a mantle of pigeon droppings, for when the people or events it celebrates attract a critical eye, its travails begin. Because a monument holds up its subject to memory, even adulation, it is likely to suffer for the failings of the animate.

In the context of the recent Confederate memorial debates, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, directly challenges the heroic narrative of the Confederacy as an honorable struggle and the idea that slavery was a benevolent institution.

In a collection of essays on Civil War visual and material culture, Kirk Savage wastes no time focusing the reader on the present, as he writes in the first line of his introduction: “Large parts of the world are beset by Civil War, or have been in recent years. They do not have the luxury of contemplating war’s horrors from a distance.”