Rethinking Who and What Get Memorialized

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tags: historiography, memorials, public history, Arts

This is a magazine devoted to documenting visual culture, whether those visuals come from the worlds of fashion, theater, film, architecture or art. Some of the most striking visuals from the past half-year in America — and there have been many — have concerned the removal or defacement of monuments dedicated to figures from the Confederacy, whose placement in public spaces mostly in the South are, for many of us, an insult, if not an assault. I am not Black, but I keenly remember the discomfort and inexplicable shame I often felt while attending my freshman-year public high school, Robert E. Lee, in Tyler, Texas. Lee was a Confederate general, a slave owner and a commander in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. (The middle school I attended in Tyler, Hubbard, was also named for a former Confederate officer, who later became the state’s governor.) A large portrait of Lee hung in the school gym, and whenever I saw it, I felt as if my right to this country, to Americanness, was being challenged. Why, more than a century later, was someone who had fought for something this country now purported to be against still being honored?

Read entire article at The New York Times

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