Living with Monuments

What do you think of when you hear the word monument? A man on a horse, a soldier, maybe an arch or an obelisk with a long inscription about the historic heroic acts of your countrymen, decades or centuries ago? The intent seems to be to honor and celebrate these figures and their acts of bravery. And this is where we get into trouble. Although heroes to some, to others they may represent oppression, injustice, and worse.

Robert E. Lee, with placard to honor Heather Heyer who was killed in the Charlottesville conflict 2017 (Statue was melted down in 2023)

How do we deal with the darker side of these monumental figures? The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, astride his horse Traveler, in Charlottesville, VA, was recently removed and melted down in a secret location. The community and leadership struggled for years over its disposition, making the difficult decision to repurpose the massive bronze monument and create a new piece of public art appropriate for the city.

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