Arguments (quotes, articles, op-eds)

February 3, 2019

This project, Red hot sun turning overis nearly complete, at least in this first stage for the premiere. I am currently finishing up edits on the score and parts to turn in to the UofSC wind ensemble and conductor Scott Weiss, so that they can begin rehearsing for the March 31 concert in Columbia SC. In the coming few weeks I will be posting more about the work's influences and ingredients. Below is the beginning of that process, where I begin to share some specifics on the research, reading, and thought that went into the early planning stages of the composition. I am offering some guiding quotations, my reading list, some links to valuable resources that shaped my thinking, and a long list of links to articles and Op-eds from the last few years, with significant quotes extracted from most. Most of these articles are from the period between the Charleston Church Massacre from the summer of 2015, when the debates over Confederate monuments started to heat up. This also corresponds with the initial seeds of Red hot sun turning over.

 

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A New Day Dawns (by Nikky Finney)

 

We Are the Original Southerners 

 

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“Memory is a living thing—it too is in transit” -Eudora Welty

 

“History does not refer merely or even principally to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within itself, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” (James Baldwin)

 

“I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.” Robert E. Lee

 

“So long as the South has an admiration for the rebellion, so long will the South be rebel at heart. [...] True patriotic devotion should redeem any portion of the Republic from reproach. It should bury forever every memorial calculated to perpetuate dishonor and disparagement.” NY Times, 1865 (from Right and Left on Removal of Confederate Statues)

 

“The nation remains divided because of the stories we tell ourselves. As long as we as a nation refuse to acknowledge the hateful symbolism and political aspirations of these monuments, we will live with the repercussions.” (Sarah E. Gardner, from What We Talk About When We Talk About Confederate Monuments

 

German art historian Helmut Scharf states that “A monument exists in the form of an object and also as symbol thereof. As a language symbol, a monument usually refers to something concrete, in some rare cases it is also used metaphorically [...]. A monument can be a language symbol for a unity of several monuments [...] or only for a single one, but in a broader sense it can also be used in nearly all knowable planes of being. [...] What is considered a monument always depends on the importance it attributes to the prevailing or traditional consciousness of a specific historical and social situation.”

 

The origin of the word "monument" comes from the Greek mnemosynon and the Latin moneo, monere, which means 'to remind', 'to advise' or 'to warn',[2]suggesting a monument allows us to see the past thus helping us visualize what is to come in the future.[3] In English the word "monumental" is often used in reference to something of extraordinary size and power, as in monumental sculpture, but also to mean simply anything made to commemorate the dead, as a funerary monument or other example of funerary art.

 

 

ARTICLES / OP-EDs

 

Report: 110 Confederate Monuments Removed in US Since 2015

 

Confederate Memorials turn up faster than they can be removed a year after Charlottesvill

 

What Trump gets wrong about Confederate statues, in one chart

 

What Should Monuments Look Like Now? 25 Artworks Reveal Some Ideas

 

‘A new vision of who we are’: the inclusive monuments to reinvigorate America

 

Academics and Artists Weigh in on Controversial City Monuments

 

Memphis finds Confederate monument law loophole, removes statue

 

Robert E Lee Opposed Confederate Monuments
 

I've studied the history of Confederate memorials. Here's what to do about them.

  • "Few if any of the monuments went through any of the approval procedures that we now commonly apply to public art. Typically, groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), which claimed to represent local community sentiment (whether they did or did not), funded, erected, and dedicated the monuments. As a consequence, contemporaries, especially African Americans, who objected to the erection of monuments had no realistic opportunity to voice their opposition. Most Confederate monuments were, in short, the result of private groups colonizing public space."

What I learned from my fight to remove Confederate monuments

  • “The monuments helped distort history, putting forth a myth of Southern chivalry, the gallant “Lost Cause”, to distract from the terror tactics that deprived African Americans of funda­mental rights from the Reconstruction years through Jim Crow until the civil rights movement and the federal court decisions of the 1960s. Institutional inequities in the economic, education, criminal justice and housing systems exist to this very day. The misuse of history is inflamed by the anger burning through demonstrations today, anger fueled by white suprem­acists and neo-Nazis who have stolen the meaning of Southern heritage from many whites who abhor their ideology but still hold hard to a rose-colored nostalgia for the past.”

 

Are Museums the Right Home for Confederate Monuments?

  • “Yet putting monuments in context is anything but a simple, declarative act: power dynamics come into play. First, museums are physical spaces that convey authority. Statues remain powerful—and physically imposing—visual forms that will keep speaking even when they are in new settings. They can and certainly will shape social experiences in ways that curators may not be able to anticipate. A simple label is not enough. In displaying statues, museums will need to be prepared to contextualize them visually and dramatically, to represent the layers of their history—from the story of their creation to the story of them being taken down and collected.”

 

I detest our Confederate monuments, but they should remain

  • “Destroying or removing monuments is the easy way out of our obligation to understand our past and improve our future. Monuments to our nation’s racism can be as much a tool to counter it as they can be a tool to foment it. The choice and obligation is ours.”

 

A historians plea for the removal of Confederate Statues

  • “… removing Confederate statues from Southern cities and towns forces Americans to confront the historical significance of racial slavery and the enduring legacy of Jim Crow segregation — actual sources of totalitarianism and demagoguery in America.”

 

Right and Left on Removal of Confederate Statues

  • “A generation ago, nobody would have thought Washington or Jefferson controversial. Now it appears that even Mount Rushmore isn’t safe, since among its quartet of greats, only Lincoln might be exempt from the iconoclasts.” (Jonathan Tobin)

  • “The theme of liberty, not slavery, as the cause for which the South fought became a mantra in the writings of old Confederates and has been taken up by neo-Confederates in our own time.” (James McPherson)

  • “The vast majority of monuments to Confederate leaders were erected to honor their service to the Confederacy, whose main reason for existing was to protect and extend slavery.” (Ilya Somin)

  • “The Confederate flag lionizes both racists and class traitors — indeed the two are inseparable.” According to Mr. Zimmer, the symbols of the Confederacy are not just about white supremacy, but also, inextricably, about class. Confederate flags and monuments, he writes, signify a “campaign by elites to hoodwink poor whites into throwing their lives away to protect ruling class wealth and privilege.”

 

Why slippery slops arguments should not stop us from removing Confederate monuments

  • “Some try to justify continuing to honor Confederates because we honor many other historical figures who committed various moral wrongs. For example, many of the Founding Fathers also owned slaves, just like many leading Confederates did. But the Founders deserve commemoration because their complicity in slavery was outweighed by other, more positive achievements, such as establishing the Constitution. By contrast, leading a war in defense of slavery was by far the most important historical legacy of Davis, Robert E. Lee, and other Confederate leaders. If not for secession and Civil War, few would remember them today.”

  • “In some instances, of course, the question of whether the good a historical figure did in one area outweighs the evil he did in another is a legitimately close one.” 

 

Thoughts on Confederate monuments in Georgia

  • “The clearest example of why this balancing must be done is the Augusta Confederate Monument. It reads “no nation rose so white and fair, none fell so pure of crime.” Is that truly how we Southerners want to remember the traitorous Confederate leaders who unsuccessfully attempted to break the United States apart?”

  • “There were many men who honorably fought for the Confederacy to defend their homes. However, it is past time for Southerners to accept the fact that the Confederate generals and politicians leading the revolt were traitors, attempting to rip apart the nation and divide it in half over the issue of slavery.”

 

Historians Weigh in on the Confederate Statue Debate

  • “… there seem to be about 1,500 Confederate monuments of some sort, statues and memorials, throughout the country. The vast majority of them were erected between 1890 and 1930, and so that means that the real building project of them doesn’t begin until fully 25 years after the end of the war.”

  • "The whole question about monuments, about memorials, about remembrance, these things are not mere historical footnotes. They are not separate subjects which can be put in a box and separated from the larger questions we’re asking about our public life. The truth of the matter is that what we know about ourselves from the past informs what we are in the present, and a people who are cut off from their past are a people who have been culturally disfranchised fully as much as those who had the vote taken away.”

  • “We’re full of moments when unspeakable things were done. We have to remember those, because it’s only by remembering them that we actually gain the impetus to do the things that really are virtuous and right and noble. Sometimes we need what has happened in terms of evil to be there to remind us about how absolutely important it is to do the good, and how little we can expect the good to happen automatically.”

  • ”I think there’s a lot more work to be done not just with monuments but just with spreading a more up-to-date and more inclusive understanding of American history so that when we say the word Southerner, we don’t just think white Southerners, because African-Americans make up a big portion of the Southern population, and their story needs to be told just like anybody else’s.”

  • “We see this internationally. In South Africa, they’ve taken down many, many of the memorials to the white colonizers that were the forerunners of the apartheid regime. There’s a time in which, as each era evolves, where people look differently at things because of our changed understanding of history and our deepening understanding of history.”

  • “Memorials are simply remembrances that something happened to these people in this place. They’re not really statements about power. The problem is that the line between memorials and monuments isn’t really all that clear and distinct. The Lee monument in Charlottesville, that went up in 1924, so that’s what has some people saying, “This is the apex of white supremacy in the South, and therefore it’s teaching people about white supremacy.”

  • “You look at that period, 1890 to let’s say 1930, and the first thing that springs to mind of course is Jim Crow. There is a sense in which a lot of these monuments really are about white supremacy. They’re about making statements about who is in charge in the South.”Monument is, generally speaking, something that you put up as a statement about who is or who is supposed to be in charge, or what those in charge are supposed to be like. I think that captures monuments.

 

Missing statues expose truths about Confederate monuments

  • “Thanks to more recent reassessments - several biographies, as well as Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Killer Angels" and "Gettysburg," the movie based on that novel - Longstreet's reputation has undergone a slow rehabilitation. Yet no book or movie can fully overturn the verdict of over a century of Lost Cause propaganda. Longstreet's postwar politics have forever barred him from the Confederate pantheon. This is not to suggest that James Longstreet deserves additional bronze tributes. There are worthier subjects for memorialization from the Civil War era, especially considering that his defense of black suffrage was a strategic, rather than a humanitarian, position. But Longstreet's story does give the lie to the central neo-Confederate defense of rebel statuary - that these monuments are tributes to military heroism, rather than totems of white supremacy. Why else would one of the Confederacy's greatest military figures be hidden in the woods?”

 

The whole point of Confederate monuments is to celebrate white supremacy 

  • “Almost none of the monuments were put up right after the Civil War. Some were erected during the civil rights era of the early 1960s, which coincided with the war’s centennial, but the vast majority of monuments date to between 1895 and World War I. They were part of a campaign to paint the Southern cause in the Civil War as just and slavery as a benevolent institution, and their installation came against a backdrop of Jim Crow violence and oppression of African Americans. The monuments were put up as explicit symbols of white supremacy.”

  • “Today’s defenders of Confederate monuments are either unaware of the historical context or do not care. Like generations of whites before them, they are more invested in the mythology that has attached itself to these sentinels of white supremacy, because it serves their cause.”

 

"Empty Pedestals” What should be done with civic monuments to the Confederacy and its leaders

  • “Confederate monuments remind audiences of a painful past but can also give voice to contemporary social concerns and needs if they are allowed to speak.”

  • “In an era of great division, most factions in the Confederate monuments debate actually agree that history should not be erased. The question is in how it should be remembered. In my opinion, if citizens come together and agree to remove the monuments, they should do so. But don’t hide them away in warehouses. Place them at museums or battlefield parks where historians and interpreters can help visitors learn about the motives behind the Lost Cause. That movement erected these statues to, yes, honor concepts of sacrifice for liberty and family, but these monuments were also designed to entrench a ruthless tradition of white supremacy.”

  • “What unites all of the participants in the debate about Confederate memorials? The belief that “retain” or “remove” are only two options. But what about a third option? I would like to propose that Confederate memorials should neither be retained nor removed: They should be destroyed, and their broken pieces left in situ.”

  • “What does this have to do with the Southern monuments honoring the political and military leaders of the Confederacy? … They turned their backs on their nation, their oaths, and the sacrifices of their ancestors in the War for Independence. They did so not out of a sense of mistreatment or for money as did Arnold. They attempted to destroy their nation to defend chattel slavery and from a sense that as white men they were innately superior to all other races. They fought for white racial supremacy. That is why monuments glorifying them and their cause should be removed. Leave monuments marking their participation on the battlefields of the war, but tear down those that only commemorate the intolerance, violence, and hate that inspired their attempt to destroy the American nation.”

  • ”… a generous proportion of the country now, and always, eschews extremism, and embraces tolerance of others’ cultures and inheritances and beliefs. Such folk will be society’s salvation.”

  • “A better solution to tearing down Confederate monuments is the example of the Arthur Ashe monument on Monument Avenue in Richmond. Ashe’s monument reminds visitors and residents that Richmond’s history is complicated and more than just the memory of the Confederacy and its leaders. Rather than tear down monuments, build new ones, where appropriate, that tell the story of those who struggled bravely for freedom and equality.”

  • “This statue, like the thousands found throughout the South and beyond, had a clear message: to celebrate and promote the ideals of the Lost Cause. The triumphant narrative of Confederate valor and sacrifice was meant to bolster white supremacy and silence African-American voices as much as their agency, particularly in the context of the Jim Crow South. This campaign of obfuscation has been remarkably successful, leaving many white Americans unwilling or disinterested in grappling with the war’s painful legacy. The removal of Confederate monuments—and the vigorous debate it has inspired—helps, I believe, to finally reach some sort of reckoning with that past in order to embrace a more pluralistic American society.”

  • “Static 19th and 20th century visions set in stone might seem objectionable, but it’s probably equally offensive to try to sanitize the past without a plan to feed the human desire for knowing what’s come before in order to understand what might lie ahead.”

 

As a historian, my instinct was to preserve Confederate monuments, but I changed my mind

  • “Contributing to this overall lie on the landscape was that the UDC placed markers and plaques on these monuments extolling the heroism, nobility, courage, dedication, patriotism, sacrifice, valor, fortitude, and duty of Confederate soldiers and icons. On none of these monuments is there mention of the true legacy of slavery in the South and the Confederacy: racism, white supremacy, rape, brutality, discrimination, treason and the deaths of 750,000 Americans.”

 

Why Confederate Monuments Must Fall

  • “Confederate monuments have always been symbols of white supremacy. The heyday of monument building, between 1890 and 1920, was also a time of extreme racial violence, as Southern whites pushed back against what little progress had been made by African-Americans in the decades after the Civil War. As monuments went up, so did the bodies of black men, women and children during a long rash of lynching.”

 

Darby: There’s no moral ambiguity on why Confederate monuments were erected

  • “When Confederate veteran and Ku Klux Klan supporter Julian Carr spoke at the dedication of the “Silent Sam” monument on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1913, he said, “One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a Negro wench until her clothing hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a southern lady, and rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed this pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison.”

  • “There is no moral ambiguity or nobility when it comes to the reason for the erection of monuments to the Confederacy. They were erected — when former slave owners regained control of the southern United States — to underscore the fact that they were reclaiming their right to exercise mean, racist and brutal control over those who they once considered to be their “property.””

 

What We Talk About When We Talk About Confederate Monuments

  • “Confederate monument building was the culmination of a deliberate campaign to write the history of the Civil War from the Southern point of view. That memory industry began almost immediately after the Confederacy’s defeat.”

  • “The nation remains divided because of the stories we tell ourselves. As long as we as a nation refuse to acknowledge the hateful symbolism and political aspirations of these monuments, we will live with the repercussions.”

  • “More than 90 percent of Confederate monuments were erected after 1895, and much of this effort took place during the first two decades of the 20th century. By then, the “Lost Cause” myth, which described the Confederate cause in a positive and heroic light, had been firmly established in the national consciousness. Not coincidentally, the Supreme Court upheld segregation laws in its 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision and disfranchisement laws in its 1898 Williams v. Mississippi decision.”

 

The fight over Virginia’s Confederate monuments

  • “The monuments were put up because the former Confederacy, the Southern states, was allowed full control not only over its story—its memorialization—but its politics,” David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale, told me. “It won that by defeating Reconstruction, with violence and with politics. It’s their celebration of their story and their revival and their victory.” He added, “Most of them don’t say, ‘It’s a monument to white supremacy,’ but it is.”

 

Mitch Landrieu’s Speech on the Removal of Confederate Monuments in New Orleans

  • “History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.”

  • “And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans — or anyone else — to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd. Centuries old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place. Here is the essential truth. We are better together than we are apart.”

  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Address on Removal of Four Confederate Statues

 

What to do with Monuments whose history we’ve forgotten

  • “There is an element of idol worship in the impulse to erect monuments to people; nobody has ever actually been as perfect as the creation of a memorial implies. And taking down monuments, something that has been going on all over the world for millennia, is, literally, iconoclasm: people destroy or deface old idols, often with the intention of creating new ones. It would be good to develop a category of people whom we celebrate while also viewing them as they are, or were—namely, as complicated and imperfect—and to find ways to amend (rather than topple) monuments to people like Schurz. There must be some way to indicate that Schurz’s monument expresses contemporary sentiments that now seem badly out of date—to use it as an instructive artifact of the mentality of the early twentieth century. Our own mentality will surely seem just as dated in a hundred years, in ways that we cannot anticipate today.”

 

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