Kevin Levin says he’s changed his mind about Confederate statues

Historians in the News
tags: Confederate Monuments



Kevin M. Levin is a historian based in Boston. He is the author of Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.

… [The] fallout following the horrific 2015 murders of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church proved to be a critical turning point in my thinking. After photographs of the shooter, Dylann Roof, posing with Confederate battle flags were published, calls rang out to remove both the banners and rebel monuments from public spaces. For me, the lowering of the Confederate battle flag in Columbia and elsewhere needed little justification, as it’d been embraced as a symbol of “massive resistance” during the civil-rights movement. But I still held firm to my view of the monuments

That summer, I traveled for the first time to Prague, in the former Soviet-bloc country of Czechoslovakia. I noticed almost immediately the concrete foundations and empty pedestals where monuments to communist leaders once stood. Some statues had been relocated to museums, while others were destroyed; skate boarders and sunbathers had since claimed their spot.

The experience forced me to reconsider my position on the markers back home. I imagined stepping back in time to convince the residents of Prague that the monuments helped them face their past, or gave teachers an important tool with which to engage their students. This proved to be a futile exercise. Regardless of their destination, the monuments were exactly where they needed to be as determined by the community members themselves. ...




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