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My Reflection on Monuments and Memory in The Abusable Past

I’m excited to share a new piece of writing up today in the Radical History Review’s blog, The Abusable Past. This reflection is part of a larger forum on monuments and memory, looking outward from our nation’s ongoing debates around Confederate monuments. This is, of course, an especially salient conversation right now at Duke University, which has been embroiled in a long-term conversation over the namesake of the Carr Building (now Classroom Building), which houses my department, the history department.

My research does not concern Confederate monuments, but when I entered graduate school, the long legacy of racism in the south was a primary personal and academic interest and investment for me. I grew up in Georgia, attended university in Alabama, and am now in graduate school in North Carolina. I have been surrounded by Confederate monuments and the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow my entire life, and the sneaking silence of that presence awakened my interest in history in my freshman year of college.

Since then, I’ve become involved in a number of campaigns to #changethenames of campus buildings at Duke and at the University of Alabama. My comparatively limited experience in activism around Confederate memory served as an education not only in the nation’s long history of racist violence, but in the ongoing institutional resistance to address systemic racism.

Unfortunately, the Confederacy sometimes serves as a catch-all for a conversation that would more productively address a host of memorialization issues, not only those that laud Confederates and slaveowners, but segregationists, colonizers, nativists, and modern beneficiaries of systemic oppression. This is, in a limited way, what my contribution to this forum addresses.

I am, as always, thankful to be part of these ongoing conversations.

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