University of Mary Washington

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Understanding the meaning of America’s monuments

Understanding the meaning of America’s monuments 2018-08-09
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Stephen Hanna

As the debate continues with what to do with Confederate monuments that dot America’s landscape, the experts from the University of Mary Washington have been lending perspective, knowledge and opinion to the conversation.

Professor of Geography Stephen P. Hanna is part of a team of scholars from universities across the South who are investigating how enslavement is incorporated in the landscape and narratives of Southern plantation museums. A key part of this work is to suggest ways these museums can rework their tours and exhibits to help the public understand that slavery was central to both the lives of everybody who lived at these sites and to the development of American political and economic systems.

Says Hanna: “A year after white supremacists rioted in Charlottesville, it is clear that the underlying issues related to racial justice have not gone away. African-Americans face arrest for simply being in places where whites suspect they don’t belong. Police are more likely to escalate their use of force more quickly when dealing with black Americans. In addition, both Blacks and Latinos are fighting efforts to make it harder for them to vote while Latino Immigrants have to fear deportation and family separation.”

He continues: “The struggle over Confederate Memorials and the narratives presented as “history” at southern plantation museums must be seen within this context. The good news is that more people understand that statues of Robert E. Lee and costumed tour guides at plantation museums describing a romanticized version of the antebellum South don’t represent our shared past. Instead they are efforts to write a particular history that denies that our nation’s roots include enslavement of African-Americans and that slavery’s legacy includes the injustices non-whites endure today.”

Dr. Hanna is available to speak with media regarding this topic. Simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.

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