The Stubborn Persistence of Confederate Monuments

David A. Graham writes a piece that examines the role of monuments dedicated to the Confederacy and the struggle to take them down. These monuments commemorate a society that explicitly enslaved people on the basis of race, in a manner inconsistent with modern values, yet the monuments persist. Graham articulates the connection between these monuments and race, and examines alternatives that might remember the Confederacy without glorifying it.


The debate continues, in part because no one agrees on its terms, much less what conclusions they dictate. Some defenders of the Confederacy continue to insist, incorrectly, that the war was fought over something other than slavery. But some people, including those who deplore the Confederacy, have staked out middle grounds, like arguing for the removal of flags but not all monuments.
This argument seems to founder on the details. Does the grand boulevard of Richmond’s Monument Avenue stand as a rebuke to the white-supremacist South where it was built? Or does it simply glorify the traitors it depicts in elaborate, heroic fashion? The unanimous vote by city leaders to add a statue of the black tennis star Arthur Ashe in 1995 certainly implied the latter, but the tacked-on juxtaposition simply accents the inherent flaws in Monument Avenue’s existence.