Monuments are not built; As such, they say more about the people who created them than the figures they represent.
Southern heritage groups were responsible for most of the monuments erected throughout the country during reconstruction, the post-Civil War era marked by an integration reaction that has driven discrimination policies and legalized Jim Crow has resulted in more than 4,000 black lynchings in the deep south.
During this period, groups such as the States Daughters of the Confederation and the sons of former Confederate fighters have built monuments that promoted the ideology of the “Cause Loss” – the belief that the rights of States, not slavery , Were the main cause of the Confederation, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
For historians, what is lacking in the monuments of the Confederation is the complete image of what they really represent. Instead of movement, some researchers suggest adding a specific historical context so that people can learn.
“What we want to do is to inject perspectives and historical facts from these monuments and to encourage people to think of them as elements of history or artifacts rather than objects of veneration,” said Sheffield Hale President and CEO of Atlanta History Center .
“These objects are inherently problematic, and therefore are potentially effective teaching tools,” Hale said. “They trigger conversations about which many people have forgotten or do not want to talk.”
This is the plan in Richmond, Virginia, the short capital of the Confederate States of America.
The mayor appointed a committee last week to look for ways to add context to Monument Avenue, an avenue lined with statues of Confederate generals, as well as a tennis legend Arthur Ashe and, of Richmond.
Critics say that contextualization has its challenges. If a statue of Lee dominates a racetrack, what impact would a small plate have on flying motorists?
Seeking a right approach is another challenge. It took almost two years of the University of Mississippi to accept the language for a new plaque for a statue of a Confederate soldier in 1906.
In addition to explaining the ideology of “Lost Cause” that the monument manufacturers subscribed to, the new plaque describes how the statue was a meeting place for a demonstration of opposition school integration in 1962.
“This historic statue remembers division beyond the university,” says the plaque in part. “Today, the University of Mississippi has had this ongoing commitment to open its sacred enclosures to all who seek truth, knowledge and wisdom.”
For some, the problem with contextualization is to keep monuments in places where they can be searched by all.
“Leaving them as they are is often a giant finger for the communities they serve,” said Anne Sarah Rubin, a professor of history at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County.
“Monuments were not representative of the communities in which they settled in. They set out to send messages and create false stories about the war and that should be celebrated,” said Rubin, author of “Through the Heart of Dixie: Walk Sherman and American Memory “.
The transfer to a museum allows people to choose to interact with them in a historical context. Many museums already have elements of dark chapters in history, including racist memoirs of the Jim Crow era, said Keisha N. Blain, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
“Contrary to public spaces such as parks – museums are controlled spaces where experienced staff can provide a historical context for visitors, and people can choose to see the monuments or not,” said Blain, co editor of “The Charleston Syllabus : Readings on race, racism and racial violence. ”
But even if museums wish, it is difficult to make up to six tons of bronze or marble.