Public monuments and memorials have a profound impact on our collective understanding of the past and help to determine which histories we will preserve and honor in the future. Professor Newman’s HIST 300: Historical Methods class investigated the histories and contemporary legacies of a variety of commemorative symbols located in the greater Richmond area and in other regions of Virginia and Washington D.C. Students researched the original contexts of specific public monuments and memorials erected since the late 1900s and the transformation of their meanings and significance over time. They also spoke with community members about the enduring social and cultural power of memorial landscapes in twenty-first century America. To study public monuments invites reflection on the tension between calls to preserve the material heritage of past generations and recognition that the commemorative intentions of the makers of many historic memorials are incompatible with core democratic values. These projects underscore the need to reconsider commemorative landscapes, both now and in the future, to ensure that they are representative of the collective values and aspirations of all members of a diverse democracy. 

Featured monuments and memorials include: the Cuban Friendship Urn in Washington D.C.; the Williams Carter Wickham Memorial in Monroe Park (pulled down in June 2020); the Confederate Monument in Portsmouth, Virginia; the Arthur Ashe Monument on Monument Avenue; the Virginia Women’s Monument in Richmond’s Capital Square; the Robert E. Lee Monument on Monument Avenue; the Slave Auction Block in Fredericksburg, Virginia (removed in June 2020); the Martin Luther King, Jr., Monument in Washington D.C.; the Bill Bojangles Robinson Monument in Jackson Ward; the Stonewall Jackson Monument on Monument Avenue (removed in July 2020); the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C.; the Jeb Stuart Monument on Monument Avenue (removed in July 2020); the Monument to the Confederate Dead in Hollywood Cemetery; the Succession Monument in downtown Chesterfield; the Richmond Slavery Reconciliation Statue in Shockoe Bottom; and the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on the grounds of the Virginia State Capital. 

Participating Artists:

Matthew Arnold, Reid Cathey, Andrea Chavez, Samuel Clemens, Sophia Crago, Nadiyah Doughty, Nyah Graham, Victoria Hart, Madison Helquist, John Leftwich, Daniel Medina, Foster Mellott, Ana Moran, Charlotte Mulder, Victor Neal, Anthony Puricelli, Savannah Sadler, Sabrina Valentino, and Dr. Brooke Newman.

Categories class project, Student Work, Students

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