A number of cities across the country have or are currently engaged in debates about the place of Confederate monuments on public ground. New Orleans recently voted to remove four monuments, but has yet to follow through. Only the University of Texas at Austin has removed Civil War related monuments from campus. Today, the city of Louisville and the University of Louisville announced that a major Confederate monument will be removed immediately from public land adjacent to the campus.
The fourteen minute presentation is worth watching. You can even see that the equipment behind the monument is ready to go. What I find interesting is that not even the development of the nearby “Freedom Park” was sufficient to quell concerns about the presence of a Confederate monument. We often hear that additions to the commemorative landscape allow for monuments to be placed in conversation with one another, but that apparently was not considered as an alternative to removal.
I was struck by a comment made by Mayor Greg Fischer in response to concerns that the removal of this monument is tantamount to erasing history, which is a claim that is often expressed:
I recognize that some people say this monument should stay here because it is history, but I also appreciate that we can make our own history.
It is certainly the case that Kentucky’s Civil War memory is much more complicated than what was shared in this brief presentation. For those of you who are interested in the subject I highly recommend Anne Marshall’s book, Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State.
For now it looks like the people of Louisville have chosen to tell a new story about their past that more accurately reflects their current values.