Civil War Monuments examined

Published 9:09 am Thursday, February 23, 2017

For decades, Civil War monuments — especially Confederate monuments — have generated controversy, according to officials with the American Civil War Museum.

“The American Civil War Museum presents its 2017 Symposium, ‘Lightning Rods for Controversy: American Civil War Monuments Past, Present and Future,’ Saturday … at the Library of Virginia in Richmond,” museum officials said in a press release. “Scholarly presentations and a panel discussion will explore the past, present and future of Civil War monuments on America’s commemorative landscape.”

“Recent news events throughout the South, including the June 2015 murders in Charleston, S.C., have unleashed unprecedented anger against Confederate symbols, prompting the removal of monuments from public spaces. The symposium seeks to provide the background and perspective that will help Americans understand the controversies surrounding Civil War monuments.”

“Civil War monuments are an important and familiar part of the commemorative landscape,” explained Museum Historian and symposium organizer Dr. John Coski. “They are ubiquitous in towns and cities, North and South, especially east of the Mississippi River. They are so familiar that most people don’t stop to ask when, why and how they got there, until something happens to them, public funds are needed to restore them, or someone questions whether they belong in public spaces.”

“Those kinds of questions lead directly to other questions about collective memory of the Civil War and its connections to today,” he said. “There is a direct link between monuments and other symbols, and our understanding of Civil War history. As a museum dedicated to the study of the Civil War and its legacies, it is important for us to lead constructive discussion of these issues.”

Symposium speakers include Dr. Thomas J. Brown of the University of South Carolina and author of “The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration;” Christy S. Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum and a member of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Monuments Work Group; Professor Ervin L. Jordan Jr. of the University of Virginia and author of “Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia;” Dr. James Loewen, author of “Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong;” and Dr. Timothy S. Sedore of the City University of New York, Bronx Community College, and author of “An Illustrated Guide to Virginia’s Civil War Monuments.”

“We intend to explore and consider this topic from as many angles as possible,” Coski adds.

The symposium is co-sponsored by the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia, and is hosted by the Library of Virginia. It takes place from 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Advance registration, including lunch, is encouraged.