In the waning days of World War II, Würzburg, a city of no military but great historical importance, was reduced to a smoldering ruin in a British fire-bomb attack. Five years before, the Germans rained down the same fate on the English city of Coventry, destroying...read more
Salzburger Park, a half-acre piece of land next to Emmett Park in Savannah, was the very place, on March 12, 1734, that first group of German-speaking Lutherans, known as the Salzburgers, landed in Georgia and were welcomed by General James Edward Oglethorpe. They...read more
Helping Hands commemorates Nobel Peace Prize winner and social reformer Jane Addams (1860–1935), who established Hull House (the nation’s first settlement house), advocated for women’s rights and founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The...read more
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.”
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.
There are times when monuments ostensibly erected to glorify war also have a side that glorifies peace. Two monuments, one in Okazaki, Japan and one in the Alamo courtyard in San Antonio, bear these words commemorating the Alamo defenders and comparing their battle to...read more
“28 Blocks” by New York artist Garin Baker is on the Metropolitan Branch Trail: a pedestrian and cyclist commuter trail in Northeast Washington. It is visible from the New York Ave. Bridge. The mural is a tribute to the men — many of whom were the first and second...read more
This was built in 1899 as a Siegesdenkmal -- victory monument -- over the French in the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71), on the edge of the Pfaltzwald. Because of its location, one can see across the Rhine all the way to Strasbourg (there are stairs in the back leading...read more
On February 1, 1960 four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University—Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond—sat down at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Greensboro and started a movement....read more
More than 200,000 Indian-Americans live in the Dallas-Forth Worth metro area. In 2010 they formed an organization to erect a monument to Mohandas K. Gandhi. The Hon. Nikki Randhawa Haley, the first female and the first Indian American Governor of South Carolina and...read more
"Youth of the World" is an obelisk topped with a flying dove, located in a city park. The text is in both French and English: For us / Youth of the World / Justice and peace are essential / These values urge us to change the world / One heart at a time / First of all...read more
The drinking fountain and clock tower in the market square of Stratford-Upon-Avon was the gift of Philadelphia Ledger publisher, antiquarian and philanthropist George Childs, donated for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It was unveiled in 1887 by the actor Henry...read more
The sister city relationship between Arlington, Texas and Bad Königshofen in Bavaria began when a German official on an exchange program stopped in Arlington and related how hard things were in his city. Not only were they suffering from post-war shortages, but their...read more
Hyde Park was the home of Franklin Roosevelt. Outside the Presidential Library, in the Freedom Plaza, is BreakFree, constructed of pieces of the Berlin Wall (which fell in November, 1989.) It was installed in 1994. The sculpture is by Edwina Sandys, granddaughter of...read more
The Christmas Truce Memorial was dedicated by The Duke of Cambridge Prince Harry on December 12, 2014, the 100th anniversary of an informal truce between British and German troops in the trenches of France during World War I, in which they sang carols, exchanged gifts...read more
This Tribute to Human Rights, by Mariano González Beltrán, was dedicated on December 15, 2004 and is located in the Plaza de Santo Domingo. Composed of numerous figures cast in bronze and arranged in a circle, it represents "a society that lives in harmony, in harmony...read more
On December 10, 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations, which held its fifth General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot, in Paris. In 1985, at the entrance of the forecourt, an engraved slab was dedicated and the esplanade was...read more
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?
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. 5
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.