Visualizing Charleston’s Memorial Landscape

It is somewhat amusing to listen to people who have suddenly awoken to the fact that there are monuments to Confederate politicians, generals and common soldiers in their own communities. Many have chosen to voice their outrage by calling for monuments to be torn down and/or removed from public land. Since my recent trip to Europe I’ve become more sensitive to these concerns, though I still maintain that the preferred course ought to be the addition of signage that explains the relevant history of both the object of commemoration and the monument itself. More importantly, a number of communities have already moved to add to their memorial landscapes. Such is the case in Richmond, Virginia.

Charleston, South Carolina is another example of a city that has chosen to add to its memorial landscape rather than tear down. Today The Washington Post included a thoughtful story about Charleston’s evolution on this front. It included a helpful graphic that you can see below.

Charleston Memorial GraphicI suspect that the loudest calls to remove monuments are in places that have made little progress on this front. Adding monuments and markers offers a number of opportunities to explore change in how a community remembers its collective past. This change can be seen in:

  • choice of who/what to commemorate
  • local organization[s] responsible for the monument
  • style of inscription
  • design of the monument
  • location of the monument

Very few, if any, monuments to the Confederacy will be torn down or removed. Whether removal occurs, however, is entirely the prerogative of local communities.

As passions decline constructive dialog and creative thinking will be the order of the day. Communities such as Charleston and Richmond suggest that transformation can be a collective effort and that it can build on the decisions made by previous generations.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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