Is removing monuments the same as removing history?

Confederacy: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

“Confederate symbols are still celebrated despite the ugly history they symbolize. John Oliver suggests some representations of southern pride that involve less racism and more Stephen Colbert.”

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Monuments or Memorials? “The Meaning of Our Confederate ‘Monuments’”

Interesting discussion on the difference between “monuments” and “memorials” and how that distinction plays out with the contemporary controversy around the removal of Confederate Civil War statues.

“The debate around these monuments — Should they be destroyed, maintained or removed elsewhere? — has been heated and, I believe, misguided. We should be asking other questions instead: Are these statues really “monuments” by our present standards? Or are they rather “memorials”? Are we misled by the avenue’s name? Do we need to rename the avenue itself as we attempt to remedy our deferred maintenance of history?”

Britain’s view of its history ‘dangerous’, says former museum director

What is the purpose of learning history? How can different nations use their history to accomplish different goals? What are the consequences of telling history in a one sided way, self promoting way?

This article helps us contrast the distinct views Great Britain and Germany have taken toward viewing their own histories. Is one superior to the other? How would we measure success in this regard? Should countries use history to promote patriotism?

“Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum, has bemoaned Britain’s narrow view of its own history, calling it “dangerous and regrettable” for focusing almost exclusively on the “sunny side”.”

“Speaking before the Berlin opening of his highly popular exhibition Germany – Memories of a Nation, MacGregor expressed his admiration for Germany’s rigorous appraisal of its history which he said could not be more different to that of Britain.

“In Britain we use our history in order to comfort us to make us feel stronger, to remind ourselves that we were always, always deep down, good people,” he said. “Maybe we mention a little bit of slave trade here and there, a few wars here and there, but the chapters we insist on are the sunny ones,” he said.”

“He said Germans had given expression to their the worst chapter of their history in extensive memorials and Mahnmale (‘monuments to national shame’). “It’s telling that in English we don’t even have a word like ‘Mahnmal’,” he said. “The term is just too alien to us.””

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/oct/07/britains-view-of-its-history-dangerous-says-former-museum-director?utm_source=Premium+TOK+newsletter+subscribers&utm_campaign=7cdac1f063-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_11_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f031581d64-7cdac1f063-98485421&mc_cid=7cdac1f063&mc_eid=34e2887073

What to do with Woodrow Wilson’s name and legacy at Princeton University

In addition to recent debates around the Confederate flag and statues and memorials to confederate war heroes have been arguments around the names of buildings on college campuses and the ways in which we should remember past historical figures who have recently become unpopular. How should we view or judge historical figures? With the standards of today? Or of their time? Important figures often leave complicated legacies that make it difficult to characterize them simply.

The case of Woodrow Wilson is an interesting one. He helped built Princeton University into much of what it is today in addition to having been a US President. At the same time he held deeply racist views and acted on those views and helped resegregate the federal workforce. How do we reconcile our views on such a person?

Below are some interesting articles on the topic.

The first one briefly summarizes the issue. The following ones are opinion pieces.

Princeton will keep Woodrow Wilson’s name on buildings, but also expand diversity efforts

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/04/04/princeton-will-keep-woodrow-wilsons-name-on-buildings-but-it-will-take-steps-to-expand-diversity-and-inclusion/

Here are four opinion pieces on the question

Erasing Woodrow Wilson’s name is not that easy

http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/30/opinions/zelizer-woodrow-wilson-princeton/

Woodrow Wilson’s racism isn’t the only reason for Princeton to shun his name

http://nypost.com/2015/12/03/woodrow-wilsons-racism-isnt-the-only-reason-for-princeton-to-shun-his-name/

The Case Against Woodrow Wilson at Princeton

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/25/opinion/the-case-against-woodrow-wilson-at-princeton.html

What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/24/opinion/what-woodrow-wilson-cost-my-grandfather.html

Yale Removes Calhoun Name: We Can’t Erase History or Erase It

“One of the goals of chopping away at history is to simplify it into a simple battle between the good, who remain, and the evil, who are wiped away. But that’s not the way history works, nor is it the way politics works.”

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444919/yale-removes-calhoun-name-foolish-erasure-history

Should We Remove Monuments of Unpopular Historical Figures?

There has been a lot of debate recently around the presence of the confederate flag at various government buildings along with war memorials to Confederate figures. Below are a couple of recent articles on the topic. These raise issues about how we should treat the past through these memorials and whether we should remove or edit them once the figures, or the ideas they represent, become unpopular.

Baltimore City commission recommends removal of two Confederate monuments

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-confederate-monuments-20160114-story.html

New Orleans votes to remove Confederate, Civil War monuments

http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/17/us/new-orleans-confederate-monuments-vote/

Richmond mayor vows to confront tributes to Southern Civil War figures

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/in-the-former-capital-of-the-confederacy-a-new-path-forward-on-monuments/2017/06/22/3133e044-56c3-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?utm_term=.2a1d409eff8b&wpisrc=nl_draw2&wpmm=1

In England, a similar debate is happening over a statue of Cecil Rhodes.

  1. ‘Black lives are cheap at Oxford’: Furor follows decision to keep Cecil Rhodes statue

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/01/29/black-lives-are-cheap-at-oxford-furor-follows-decision-to-keep-cecil-rhodes-statue/?mc_cid=84d899c964&mc_eid=34e2887073
  2. Over one third of Oxford students want Cecil Rhodes statue removedhttp://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/15/oxford-students-cecil-rhodes-statue-removed?mc_cid=84d899c964&mc_eid=34e2887073
  3. Removing visual reminders of unsavoury history is not the best way to confront the past.http://www.historytoday.com/rupert-fitzsimmons/rhodes-must-not-fall?mc_cid=84d899c964&mc_eid=34e2887073

Podcast: The Falling of the Lenins

“The same protests that brought down that Lenin statue eventually brought about a new government in Ukraine, which sought to eliminate all physical reminders of communism and Russia.  But it hasn’t been easy, logistically or politically, because removing these things erases history that is still important to some Ukrainians. Furthermore, communist symbols are very pervasive in the built environment — they can be found on buildings, bridges and other infrastructure.”

http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-falling-of-the-lenins/