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In recent weeks, there have been various attempts—some successful and some unsuccessful—to remove, deface, or destroy historical statues depicting persons who are viewed as in some sense offensive. Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Revolutionary War hero Colonel William Crawford, medical doctor J. Marion Sims, Christopher Columbus, Peter Stuyvesant, Justice Roger B. Taney (of Dred Scott), and several assorted commemorations of fallen Confederate soldiers, sailors, and Confederate women. In some cases, city officials (such as in Baltimore) preemptively ordered the removals to prevent violence; in other cases citizens were arrested for harming the statues. On the other hand, Gettysburg has announced they are not removing their statues of Confederate generals. What do our readers think about this turn of affairs? What principles should guide action about historical statues? How broad a net should be cast, if at all (with some suggesting statues of George Washington, a slaveholder, are also offensive). We welcome your thoughts!



Full Citation for this Article: Editorial Board, SquareTwo Journal (2017) "Readers’ Puzzle for Summer 2017: The Question of Historical Statues," SquareTwo, Vol. 10 No. 2 (Summer 2017), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ReadersPuzzleSummer2017.html, accessed <give access date>.

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COMMENTS: 1 Comment

I. Evis Farka Haake

Due to the lack of seriously addressing the concerns of the African-American communities (violence, incarceration, marginalization of their communities, integration, etc), the tensions are very high. Issues are considered under high tensions and those who should be heard are silenced. The status of the Confederates soldiers and generals are not offensive in themselves. But their presence in public places raises questions: Why are they there? To glorify, to teach history, to remember? To whom are they speaking to? And what are they saying? It seems to me that the states that lost the war erected such statues to glorify the cause and the principles for which the war was fought. In addition, these states probably erected such statuses at a time when most of their African-American population had moved North. Or when they were in small numbers and with no political power. Now, the demographics of those states have changed and more white people thing differently now than in the past. And as all communities in these states ponder about the lessons learned from the Civil War using the lens of our times, they do not share the sentiments with those local governments that erected such status in the past.

We have learned that our well-meaning, bright and educated leaders that created this country, believed in modern principles as applicable only to their class and race. However, our experience accumulated since then has taught us that that was wrong. The principles and ideas should be equally applied to all citizens who contribute to the nation. And this brings us to the question: Who should write the history of that time in the art form? The winners? All sides? How should it be presented to all?

***What principles should guide action about historical statues?

First, the principle of inclusion should guide it. The public space belongs to all communities and it should be a safe place for public discourse. Therefore, the statues of these famous men should take into consideration certain parameters: they have to speak to all communities in the state and they need to tell the truth.

***How broad a net should be cast, if at all (with some suggesting statues of George Washington, a slaveholder, are also offensive). We welcome your thoughts!

​These great good men believed in slavery - the exploration of a group of people to the benefit of another one. The statues should not glorify them. And they should not be erected in public spaces because these men were not heroes during the war; and certainly not heroes to all. Many contributed considerably to the advancement of science, art and nation-building. And their legacy deserves attention and admiration but only where it is due. Their role in the war or as slave-owners was to the advancement of a horrible political and economic system based on exploitation. So, when a statue of a historical men is erected, we need to ask the questions: what aspect of his life do we want to represent about this man/woman? Where is the appropriate place to erect the statue? My opinion is that these statues should not be destroyed because the sentiments of the loosing side are important, and these people were great in other aspects of their lives. We simply cannot represent such figures in a black/white dichotomy anymore and their place is in museums not public spaces. Museums allow the public to learn about all aspects but public spaces do not have that purpose. We need to give them credit for their contributions but also recognize that their beliefs in slavery and inferiority of the Afro-American race continues to penetrate our modern times and poisons our communities. Their actions and examples matter today and statues might be too simple of a representation of these complex men and times that keep affecting us today.