Karen L. Cox says historians need to use their power now

Historians in the News
tags: Civil War, Charlottesville, Confederate Monuments, Karen L Cox



Karen L. Cox is professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the founding director of the graduate public history program. She is the author of multiple books about Southern history and culture, most recently "Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South." 

Since the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, historians of the Civil War and the American South have been busy public intellectuals. Like me, some wrote about removing or offered the historical context for the numerous Confederate monuments that exist in the region. Others wrote about Confederate memorialization more generally, in an effort to explain why these tangible reminders of white supremacy exist.

The public, at home and abroad, is hungry for both context and conversation after Charlottesville and what the events there say about America. As of this writing, the op-eds I wrote for The New York Times and the Washington Post have received thousands of comments.

To date, I have spoken with reporters from Japan, Canada, Israel, Denmark and England. My op-eds were reprinted in Ireland and Germany. The global import of these questions is staggering.

Most critically, and like other historians, I have also been inundated with emails from everyday citizens around the country. I expected, and received, several emails condemning me for having suggested removal, though not destruction, of the monuments that are causing such divisiveness. 

What I did not expect were the numerous emails that neither lauded nor castigated me for my opinions on the issue of Confederate monuments. These Americans were writing to ask questions about history, about parallels between monuments in the South and those in other countries. They asked me to direct them to reading material that might help them not only make sense of these memorials, but also broaden their understanding of our country's complicated past. ...




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