Why Now? A Historian Roundtable

We have attempted, on this blog, to explore the origins and meanings of the statues on Monument Avenue. In the process, we have seen the complexity of their original contexts and the transformation of their meanings over time.

As we finish tracing the histories that emanated from 1890, we would like to more directly address the histories that have led to this particular moment that we reconsidering Confederate monuments in Richmond and beyond. In short, why is this happening now? The 2015 Charleston murders are an obvious starting point. But we would like to explore several political and social contexts that may reveal that this much more than a response to a single horrific act, but one that represents deeper structural change in American society, in how we see ourselves and our collective past.

We have asked several historians to consider the historical background to this moment. A few have looked deep into history, while others survey the last few years; some see remarkable consistency while others identify the novel character of our time.

We will post one historian per day between now and Monday, when the Museum will host our final History Happy Hour of the season: Monument Avenue, Shockoe Bottom, and Richmond Commemorative Landscape