How Should We Deal With Monuments to Deeply Flawed Historical Figures?

Is tearing down statues right and necessary? Or is it a form of historical censorship?

Laura Weber Davis/WDET

This conversation originally aired on Detroit Today on May 11, 2017.

Early on Thursday morning, a statue honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis was removed in New Orleans. It’s the second of four statues slated for removal in the city.

While many applauded the removal, the plan has created a major controversy in New Orleans and across the country.

How to properly acknowledge, and contextualize, historical figures is difficult, especially when many of them were deeply flawed and often ascribed to a racist worldview.

Kidada Williams, associate professor of African American history at Wayne State University, speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about the issues surrounding statue removal. 

“What we’ve seen in the past, you know, 20 to 40 years is an effort to come to terms with (the history of the U.S.), and effort to, sort of, stitch this more complicated, more horrifying reality into the history of the nation,” says Williams.

Many of the people who oppose the removal of these monuments “are committed to these earlier, older, sanitized, white-washed histories of the United States,” says Williams. “A lot of the advocates for keeping the monuments will not acknowledge the actual, more complicated history of the Civil War.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


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