In the past few decades, national debate surrounding monuments and memorials of the Confederacy have reached new heights as activists push for their removal. The monument debate swirls with arguments from the monuments being a testament to blatant racism and injustice in American society and misrepresenting (or altering) history to those of southern and family heritage and legacy. These disagreements have led to protests and counter protests, most notably the tragic 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. Clearly, this topic is volatile and present in the minds of Americans. However, what is not clear is how current some monuments actually are.
Much has been written about the confederate monument craze of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and of key organizers of their construction like the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans. Often, when media sources write about monuments and protests, they mention these historical foundations. However, very little writing exists for the monuments created, erected, and dedicated in the digital age. My project seeks to change that.
In this project, I will map the (at least) 35 Confederate monuments dedicated in the 21st century. My analysis will include their transcriptions, newspaper articles, and secondary source material to place these monuments within the larger conversation regarding historical memory, legacy, and memorial in America. I want to answer: what are the motives for these new monuments? What are they memorializing? Where is slavery in these monuments? Where is the acknowledgement and accountability of the failure of the confederate state ? How do these fit (or not) within “Lost Cause” narratives? And most importantly, should they be removed?
I propose to use ArcGIS Story Maps for my project because it allows for a blog-like flow of both narrative and mapping service. It will include images, narrative writing, links to further resources, and potentially audio from interviews conducted with those are the forefront of this conflict. It will be interactive and guide the reader through contextual exhibits (liked elaborating on the UDC and its role in memorialization) through the Story Maps slideshow feature. I also would like to incorporate some method of a comment/communication system in the project, perhaps through an embedded link. This project is unique because other Confederate monuments and memorial maps are encyclopedic rather than analytic.
The audience I hope will benefit from this project are academics in the field, activists, journalists, and history hobbyists. This tool will allow for more focused discussions of monuments while also challenging the readers to understand the relevancy of these monuments; if they were human, few could drink, a little more could vote, and many wouldn’t be able to legally drive. This suggests that the battle to preserve historical memory is far from over and has a lot of potential for outreach and publicity. In the end, this project will be evaluated on its flexibility; I hope that this is a resource that can grow and be updated to further contextualize commemoration in the United States. This means that map functionality and sustainability coupled with reader feedback will be the focus of my evaluation efforts.
What are your thoughts on this? Anything else I should consider or include?