Peace & Justice Monuments
Monday’s Monument: Justice, Winnipeg, Canada

Monday’s Monument: Justice, Winnipeg, Canada

Created by local artist Gordon Reeve, the work was one of four public art pieces commissioned as part of the building of the new Law Courts in 1984. Consisting of three ribs or legs, the sculpture is topped by three long arms, each taking a different serpentine form....

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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: Letelier-Moffitt Monument, Washington, DC

Monday’s Monument: Letelier-Moffitt Monument, Washington, DC

On September 21, 1976, on Sheridan Circle, a car driven by Orlando Letelier, an outspoken opponent of Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, exploded The explosion killed Letelier and his passenger and colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. It was caused by a remote...

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Monday’s Monument: Monumento de la Paz, Caracas, Venezuela

Monday’s Monument: Monumento de la Paz, Caracas, Venezuela

The Monument for Peace was erected by Dr. Farid Mattar in 1963 as an ecological monument and a tribute to recycling. Constructed only with stones and leftovers from construction sites all over the city of Caracas, each stone was placed, according to Mattar’s own...

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Monday’s Monument: Bertha von Suttner Statue, Bonn, Germany

Monday’s Monument: Bertha von Suttner Statue, Bonn, Germany

The 2.50 m high stainless steel sculpture was placed on Bonn's Bertha-von-Suttner-Platz on the initiative of the Women's Network for Peace and dedicated on September 21, 2013, the International Day of Peace. It is the work of Finnish sculptor Sirpa Masalin. On the...

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Monday’s Monument: Magna Carta Monument, Runnymede, England

Monday’s Monument: Magna Carta Monument, Runnymede, England

The American Bar Association (ABA) came to visit Runnymede in the 1950s and was surprised to find no official memorial to the Magna Carta. After discussion with the local authority and the National Trust, the idea of an ABA sponsored memorial was initiated, and Sir...

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Monday’s Monument: Beatitude Statues, Detroit, Michigan

Monday’s Monument: Beatitude Statues, Detroit, Michigan

Life-size bronze figures of eight contemporary people at the Solanus Casey Center at the Saint Bonaventure Capuchin Monastery represent the Beatitudes of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3–11.) Each of these individuals has shown through their life and...

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Monday’s Monument: Play for Peace, Chicago, IL

Monday’s Monument: Play for Peace, Chicago, IL

Installed in September, 2018 by artist Jeffrey Breslow outside his studio in Chicago's Fulton Market, this 13 foot by 12 foot metal sculpture features nine colorful life-size silhouettes of kids at play. The children symbolize hope for a peaceful world. The text...

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Monday’s Monument: Gaspar Yanga Statue, Yanga, Mexico

Monday’s Monument: Gaspar Yanga Statue, Yanga, Mexico

Gaspar Yanga was a member of the royal family in Gabon prior to being kidnapped and enslaved, working in the Veracruz sugar plantations. He is widely considered to have established one of the first free black settlements in North or South America. Yanga founded the...

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Monday’s Monument: Haymarket Memorial, Chicago, Illinois

Monday’s Monument: Haymarket Memorial, Chicago, Illinois

This statue in Haymarket square is the culmination of more than a century grappling with the meaning of the Haymarket Riot. On May 4, 1886, a labor rally near Chicago’s Haymarket Square turned into a riot after someone threw a bomb at police. At least eleven people...

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Monday’s Monument: I Am Queen Mary, Copenhagen, Denmark

Monday’s Monument: I Am Queen Mary, Copenhagen, Denmark

I Am Queen Mary is a 23-foot tall statue of St. Croix’s Queen Mary Thomas, who, alongside two other women, Queen Agnes and Queen Matilda, led a 19th century labor uprising in the former Danish colony. Freed from slavery in 1848, the Danish Virgin Island's Black...

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Monday’s Monument: Lasting Friendship, Fredericksburg, Texas

Monday’s Monument: Lasting Friendship, Fredericksburg, Texas

Behind the Vereins Kirche is this statue group commemorating the treaty between the German settlers and the Comanche Indians. It was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1997 as a part of the city’s 150th anniversary. Comanche chiefs Buffalo Hump, Santa Anna and others met with...

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Monday’s Monument: Women’s Memorial, Boston, Massachusetts

Monday’s Monument: Women’s Memorial, Boston, Massachusetts

In the late 1980s, a young girl on a class trip walking Boston’s Freedom Trail asked, “Where are the women?” She sparked a movement to make the landscape of Boston more inclusive. The Boston Women’s Memorial honors three important contributors to Boston’s rich...

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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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