How About a Big Outdoor Museum of Confederate Monuments?

MHC_Confederate_Statue_HillThis is what Durham University (UK) history professor Kevin Waite proposes in a recent piece at The Conversation.

Here is a taste:

Rather than scrapping these monuments or packing them away, bring them back into the clear light of day – only this time, in a completely different setting. Collect these fallen Confederates in a vast, outdoor museum space, carefully presented and properly contextualised. If done thoughtfully, such a museum could transform objects of veneration into tools for edification, and move the US one step closer towards a fair reckoning with its past.

First and foremost, this museum would require contextualisation in the form of detailed histories for each monument. That would take the sheen off these statues by explaining who these men really were: slaveholders at the helm of a rebellion against the US government. Many of them were large landowners, who amassed fortunes on the backs of the human beings that they owned. In an effort to preserve and extend slavery, they shattered the Union in a war that claimed an estimated 750,000 lives – a higher death toll than all other American military conflicts put together.

But such a museum would need to move well beyond the Civil War and into the Jim Crow era. That’s in fact when the majority of these monuments were erected. The high-tide of Confederate monument-making took place during the early 20th century. It was synchronous with a wave of legislation designed to disempower African Americans across the South. A second spike in Confederate memorialisation occurred during the 1950s and 1960s, when black people began rolling back some of those exclusions. These monuments represent the reactionary rebuttal to the civil rights movement. Or, to borrow a more recent slogan, it was a white supremacist effort to make the South great again.

Read the entire piece here.  Thoughts?

One thought on “How About a Big Outdoor Museum of Confederate Monuments?

  1. Richmond, Virginia is ahead of the curve. Most of our monuments are on Monument Avenue and run several blocks in length. There is a commission that is studying how the monuments should be presented in light of modern history.


Comments are closed.