Peace & Justice Monuments

Since May 2015, every Monday morning I have been posting a little essay about a peace or social justice monument. For more than a decade, ever since the peaceCENTER was contracted by a national peace & human rights group to develop a workshop exploring strategies for creating memorials about acts of violence and injustice that did not glorify the bloodshed, we have pondered the relationship between the landscape and civic memory.

“I would rather take care of the stomachs of the living
than the glory of the departed in the form of monuments.”

Alfred Nobel

As we showcase these monuments we hope you will join us in this exploration. For now, we’re concentrating on publicly accessible outdoor works. Some are grassroots and homespun; others, more complicated in their funding and execution. They all have a story to tell and we can learn from all of them.

Monday’s Monument: Compassion, Moscow, Russia

Monday’s Monument: Compassion, Moscow, Russia

Malchik was a black mongrel stray dog who, for about three years, lived at the Mendeleyevskaya station on the Moscow Metro. Popular station with rail employees and commuters, in 2001 he was stabbed to death by a young model, found at trial to be mentally ill. This...

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Monday’s Monument: Peace Chant, Portland, Oregon

Monday’s Monument: Peace Chant, Portland, Oregon

Funded by the National Park Service and the City of Portland's Housing and Community Development department, Peace Chant, installed in 1984, it is the first known peace memorial in Oregon. The artist, Steven Gillman intended for the sculpture to "create a space where...

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Monday’s Monument: Greenham Common Peace Camp Memorial

Monday’s Monument: Greenham Common Peace Camp Memorial

The Women’s Peace Camp on Greenham Common closed on 5 September 2000 after 19 years of continuous presence outside the Greenham Common Airbase.  The women believed that the events of this important period should be remembered with a permanent commemorative and...

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Monday’s Monument: Robert F. Kennedy Bust, Brooklyn, New York

Monday’s Monument: Robert F. Kennedy Bust, Brooklyn, New York

A large bronze memorial bust of Robert F. Kennedy, former U.S. Senator and U.S. Attorney General in the 1960s, sits in the center of Brooklyn, New York, at Columbus Park.  Kennedy, a Democrat, served as New York’s U.S. Senator from 1965 to the time he was assassinated...

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Monday’s Monument: Garden of Philosophy, Budapest, Hungary

Monday’s Monument: Garden of Philosophy, Budapest, Hungary

Sculpted by Nándor Wagner between 1982 and 1997, this statue grouping was installed on Budapest’s Gellért Hill in 2001. Wagner's intention for the piece was to promote mutual understanding among the world’s religions. The group of statues features an inner circle...

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Monday’s Monument: Herald of Peace, New York, New York

Monday’s Monument: Herald of Peace, New York, New York

After World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations decided that its headquarters would be established in New York City. In 1946 the Rockefeller family donated funds for the acquisition of a tract of land in Manhattan. Construction of the building complex...

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Monday’s Monument: Monument to Tolerance, Seville, Spain

Monday’s Monument: Monument to Tolerance, Seville, Spain

Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida's Monument to Tolerance, is next to the Triana Bridge by the Guadalquivir River. It was completed in 1992 to coincide with the Universal Exposition of Seville, it was commissioned by The Friends of Sefarad Foundation for the Sephardic...

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Monday’s Monument: Peace Statue Judith, Breda, Netherlands

Monday’s Monument: Peace Statue Judith, Breda, Netherlands

Although this statue in the Grote Mark in Breda is referred to as a peace statue it is actually a tribute to the liberation of the city on October 29, 1944 by the 1st Polish Armoured Division commanded by General Stanisław Maczek, who is buried in a nearby military...

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Monday’s Monument: Flame of Compassion, Denver, Colorado

Monday’s Monument: Flame of Compassion, Denver, Colorado

The “Flame of Compassion” is a aeolian wind harp which is in constant harmonic communication with the elemental heartbeat of nature. This sculpture stands as a metaphor for the constant vigilance and genuine intent held to create Harmony as the preferred outcome in...

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Monday’s Monument: Jan Karski Statue, New York, New York

Monday’s Monument: Jan Karski Statue, New York, New York

Jan Karski was a World War II Polish resistance fighter who risked his life to bring firsthand reports of the Holocaust to the Allies. This statue of him is on the southeast corner of Madison Avenue & 37th St., in front of the Polish Consulate. This bronze statue...

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Monday’s Monument: La Rogativa, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Monday’s Monument: La Rogativa, San Juan, Puerto Rico

La Rogativa is a famous bronze statue located in the Plazuela de la Rogativa on Caleta de las Monjas near La Puerta de San Juan. Derived from the verb rogar, meaning to plea or to supplicate, a rogativa is a procession making a plea to God for help. British troops,...

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MONUMENT (n.)

late 13c., “a sepulchre,” from Old French monument “grave, tomb, monument,” and directly from Latin monumentum “a monument, memorial structure, statue; votive offering; tomb; memorial record,” literally “something that reminds,” from monere “to admonish, warn, advice,” from PIE *moneyo-, suffixed (causative) form of root *men- (1) “to think.” Sense of “structure or edifice to commemorate a notable person, action, or event” first attested c. 1600.

Ten Questions to Ask at a Historic Site

In his book Lies Across America, Professor James Loewen posed these ten questions to ask at a historic site.

1. When did this location become a historic site? (When was the marker or monument put up? Or the house interpreted?) How did that time differ from ours? From the time of the event or person interpreted?

2. Who sponsored it? representing which participant groups’s point of view? What was their position in the social structure when the event occurred? When the site went “up”?

3. What were the sponsor’s motives? What were their ideological needs and social purposes? What were their values?

4. What is the intended audience for the site? What values were they trying to leave for us, today? What does the site ask us to go and do or think about?

5. Did the sponsors have government support? At what level? Who was ruling the government at the time? What ideological arguments were used to get the government acquiescence?

6. Who is left out? What points of view go largely unheard? How would the story differ if a different group told it? Another political party? Race? Sex? Class? Religious group?

7. Are there problematic (insulting, degrading) words or symbols that would not be used today, or by other groups?

8. How is the site used today? Do traditional rituals continue to connect today’s public to it? Or is it ignored? Why?

9. Is the presentation accurate? What actually happened? What historical sources tell of the event, people, or period commemorated at this site?

10. How does the site fit in with others that treat the same era? Or subject? What other people lived ad events happened then but are not commemorated? Why?

Want to learn more about monuments? Check out my bookshelf.

Ready to Kill

by Carl Sandburg (Chicago Poems, 1916)

TEN minutes now I have been looking at this.
I have gone by here before and wondered about it.
This is a bronze memorial of a famous general
Riding horseback with a flag and a sword and a revolver on him.
I want to smash the whole thing into a pile of junk to be hauled away to the scrap yard.
I put it straight to you,
After the farmer, the miner, the shop man, the factory hand, the fireman and the teamster,
Have all been remembered with bronze memorials,
Shaping them on the job of getting all of us
Something to eat and something to wear,
When they stack a few silhouettes
Against the sky
Here in the park,
And show the real huskies that are doing the work of the world, and feeding people instead of butchering them,
Then maybe I will stand here
And look easy at this general of the army holding a flag in the air,
And riding like hell on horseback
Ready to kill anybody that gets in his way,
Ready to run the red blood and slush the bowels of men all over the sweet new grass of the prairie.

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