Removal of historical statues in the USA.

Controversial statues withdrawals and acts of vandalism against public monuments have increased in recent months. They tell of a country that updates its national story against a background of significant societal divides. The Statue of Theodore Roosevelt, surrounded by a black man and a Native American, was placed at the American Museum of Natural History entrance in New York. New York. "These monuments make sense," observes Terrence Floyd during the inauguration on Union Square, in the heart of Manhattan, of the giant busts of his brother George, an African-American who died of suffocation in May 2020 under the knee of a white policeman. Breonna Taylor, an African-American paramedic, killed in a police raid on her home in March 2020, and John Lewis, figure of the American civil rights movement, who died in July 2020. Featured throughout October, these works by artist Chris Carnabuci pay homage to the "symbols" that sparked the major anti-racist demonstrations of the summer of 2020 to "make monuments of a movement": "Black Lives Matter"). Less than two days after the ceremony, the statue of George Floyd was covered in gray paint by a man on a skateboard. "It's incredibly disappointing to see that it took so little time for this statue to be vandalized", comments Terrence Floyd immediately. However, little surprised: someone had already tagged the logo of a white supremacist group on the bust of his brother in Brooklyn during the summer. In retaliation, the following day, an equestrian statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt which sits in front of the Natural History Museum was itself covered in red paint. What we call the "cultural wars", these debates which polarize American society around major moral and political issues, are also played out - and perhaps first of all - in the field of commemoration in the public space. Monuments fall, others replace them. Bring the heroes off their pedestal The Roosevelt statue in question has long been the subject of controversy . It must be debunked soon, as the municipality decided after a year of bitter discussions at the beginning of the summer. This large 1939 bronze was a tribute to the tutelary figure of the Museum and to the continents that this naturalism enthusiast had explored, Africa and the American West: a black man and an Amerindian flank the former president. The problem comes from "the induced hierarchy, which places a figure on a horse and the two others walking alongside it", explains the Museum in a press release. "Many of us find these representations and their disposition racist. " On October 18, the city government decided to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson, installed since 1915 in the New York City Council chamber. African-American and Latino elected officials have long called for his removal. Adrienne Adams, an African-American elected member of the city council explains: It puts me in a deeply unpleasant position to know that we have a statue paying homage to a slave owner who fundamentally believed that people like me did not deserve the same rights and freedoms as those he designated in the Declaration of Independence". In Georgia and Oregon, several other monuments dedicated to Jefferson, who owned more than six hundred slaves, have been taken away or destroyed in recent months. The measure is not unanimous; the founding father still has his defenders. "The statue honors Jefferson specifically for his exceptional contributions to the history of America, and even of all humanity," says Sean Wilentz, professor of American history at Princeton University, who regrets that forget the original intention of those who placed this sculpture there over a century. Many other historical figures are the subject of this competition of memories: so it is with Christopher Columbus, the third most celebrated personality in American public space. Some see it as the symbol of the continent's European colonization and the origin of the "systemic racism" denounced by Black Lives Matter. Nearly thirty monuments in his honor have been removed across the country since the death of George Floyd: "Celebrating Columbus is celebrating the genocide of our people," says Mahtowin Munro, who co-directs the United American Indians of New England defense association. In New York, the large marble statue in his image which dominates Columbus Circle is still there, despite the regular demonstrations. It was erected in 1892 in honor of the Italian-American community of the city, which still defends it tooth and nail: as a link between Italy and the United States, Columbus is the figurehead since the first migratory waves of the 19th century. "Our monuments must represent our diversity. Italian-Americans embody part of this diversity," explains Richard Alba, professor of sociology at the City University of New York. "The history of this statue has nothing to do with that of Confederate soldiers in the south of the country, to mark the triumph of whites over blacks. " In August 2017, a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee sparked violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thousands of far-right activists had converged on the city on the occasion of a large rally called "Unite the right" to protest against the municipality's decision to withdraw it. "This statue is the focal point of everything else," explained Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the rally. This is genocide against whites. It is about replacing our people, culturally and ethnically. "Donald Trump tweeted his support to the protesters, saying "sad to see the history and culture of our great country get to pieces". After many twists and turns, the statue was finally deposited last July. It is one of 170 monuments in honor of Confederate soldiers who have been withdrawn over the past year. Since the events of 2017, these monuments, for the most part erected long after the end of the Civil War until the 1960s, at the time of the civil rights movement, have had less and less public support. "Monuments do not teach history, they transmit values. If a community decides that they no longer want to be represented by a statue that someone placed there a century ago, who am I to deny them that right?", Summarizes Adam Domby, historian of the Civil War. "We will always teach history. We will still know who Robert E. Lee was," adds Annette Gordon-Reed, professor of American history at Harvard University. A study by the Monument Lab think tank, published in September, revealed that of the fifty most commemorated personalities in the public space in the United States, 89% are white and 95% are men. "There are more monuments in honor of mermaids (22) than women members of Congress (2)! "Comments Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which funded the survey and is investing $ 250 million over five years to "reinvent our monuments around issues of justice and equality ". In 1776, five days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a statue of King George III of England was unbolted in New York. Two and a half centuries later, the statues have not finished falling. Read in the Journal des Arts

Removal of historical statues in the USA.

Controversial statues withdrawals and acts of vandalism against public monuments have increased in recent months. They tell of a country...