Charlottesville To Keep Its Confederate Monuments

Last night the commission tasked with making a decision about the future of Charlottesville’s Lee and Jackson monuments voted 6 – 3 to maintain these structures in their current locations. The commission’s decision is just a recommendation, but I suspect the city council will accept their conclusion and their list of recommendations.

Commission member John Edwin Mason put it this way on twitter:

Those recommendations include promoting various cultural and historical resources throughout the community and establishing March 3 as “Liberation Day” or “Freedom Day” in recognition of the Union army’s entrance into the city in 1865.

Of course, how the meaning of Lee and Jackson parks will be “transformed” or “retold” is entirely dependent on the people of Charlottesville. It has already been impacted by the city council’s decision to discontinue recognizing Lee-Jackson Day.

I have refrained from sharing my own views about what communities should do with their monuments because I believe it is up to the people directly impacted.

These are local decisions, but having lived and taught in Charlottesville for ten years I don’t mind sharing that I agree with the commission’s decision. I tend to think that a commemorative landscape should reflect a community’s past and I prefer a little tension between different sites, if only to engage people around the tough questions and a little reflection.

This may not work for every community, but I believe that Charlottesville can set the example by thinking creatively about how to leverage existing and potentially new commemorative sites to promote a shared narrative and raise important questions about our shared history.

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6 comments… add one
  • Confederate Nov 10, 2016 @ 15:19

    People need to stop being so sensitive. If they have the monuments removed what purpose does that serve? People need to realize that history needs to be preserved not abolished!

  • James Harrigan Nov 3, 2016 @ 6:49

    here’s the latest. My suggestion is to change Lee Park to Emancipation Park. Anyone have good ideas for Jackson Park?

    • Kevin Levin Nov 3, 2016 @ 7:00

      Renaming the parks is a perfectly reasonable suggestion.

    • James Simcoe Nov 4, 2016 @ 10:56

      Re-naming is a good idea; I liked Lee-Lafayette Park, new statue added and all, as the Revolutionary hero visited Charlottesville and Jefferson as part of his U.S. tour. It was the single greatest, unified celebratory event for the country prior to the Civil War. Washington’s passing certainly equaled it in intensity of feeling, if not surpassed – of course as memorial, not celebration. We would never see the true Corp commander of the 19th Virginia parked there! (The Regiment of the soldier-statue in front of the courthouse) Mr. Longstreet, I speak of. Five other regiments were mustered with only 1 company each with men from this part of Central Virginia; all Pickett’s Division, Longstreet’s Corp. To understand why, compare Longstreet’s public letter affirming loyalty to Congressional priority in matters of civil rights to Lee’s White Sulphur Springs Manifesto. Perhaps ‘Constitution Park’ since the Revolution created Independence, but the Constitution made a nation.

  • James Harrigan Nov 2, 2016 @ 9:56

    I’m disappointed that it looks like the statues will remain where they are, but I love the idea of replacing Lee-Jackson Day with a day commemorating the end of slavery in my town – though I think “Emancipation Day” would be a better name for the holiday than “Liberation Day” or “Freedom Day”.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 2, 2016 @ 14:11

      I think people who favor removing or moving Confederate monuments need to come to terms with its unlikelihood. There are so many factors, beginning with a hefty price tag, that stand in its way.

      I tend to think that there are many more creative opportunities to shape these commemorative spaces with the monuments intact.

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