Tear Down the Confederate Monuments—But What Next? 12 Art Historians and Scholars on the Way Forward

By Gonzalo Casals


“History is written by the victors, or actually by those in power. Since the civil rights movement in the 1960s, culturally specific museums, such as the Leslie-Lohman Museum, El Museo, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, have been reclaiming scholarship and writing history from multiple perspectives, making for a more nuanced and complex interpretation of US history.

Those interested in the future of Confederate symbols (flags, monuments, sites) and how to properly provide interpretations that are nuanced and multifaceted, can take a page from the book of culturally specific museums.

One example that comes to mind is the work of Ken Gonzales-Day, on view at Leslie-Lohman Museum through September 10. The Wonder Gaze (St. James Park) is part of the artist’s “Erased Lynching” series revealing the terrors of America’s shameful past. Gonzales-Day erases the lynched body and rope from historical photos depicting lynchings, allowing the gaze to shift to the crowd of white men and women who assembled to witness the morbid spectacle in front of their eyes. His work is an example of a simple artistic gesture that allows for the reinterpretation of history, opening up new perspectives and allowing for the voices of the “other” to rise above the official history.

I invite historic sites, mainstream museums, and municipal administrations to engage and commission self-identifying queer, Latinx, native, black, and Asian artists to offer new and more inclusive ways to look at their Confederate history.”

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