Peace & Justice Monuments
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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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: Louis Pasteur Statue, Chicago, IL

Monday’s Monument: Louis Pasteur Statue, Chicago, IL

Across the street from the Old Cook County Hospital stands a statue of Louis Pasteur, the Frenchman remembered for his breakthroughs in the causes and prevention of diseases and the discovery of of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and...

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Monday’s Monument: Cesar Chavez Statue, Austin, Texas

Monday’s Monument: Cesar Chavez Statue, Austin, Texas

This student-funded statue of civil rights crusader Cesar Chavez was unveiled on the West Mall area of the University of Texas campus in 2007. The bronze statue shows Chavez facing west, with a flag. His left arm is draped over the short flag pole, which rests on his...

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Monday’s Monument:  We Arrive, Hamilton, Bermuda

Monday’s Monument: We Arrive, Hamilton, Bermuda

In 1835 a group of 172 slaves from America chose to gain their freedom on the shore of Barr's Bay Park. In 2010 a sculpture was unveiled to commemorate the event. As a plaque at the base of the statue explains: THE BERMUDA DIASPORA HERITAGE TRAIL {Globe With Bermuda...

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Monday’s Monument: The Black Cone, Reykjavík, Iceland

Monday’s Monument: The Black Cone, Reykjavík, Iceland

Spanish artist Santiago Sierra premiered a giant piece of rock called ‘The Black Cone, Monument To Civil Disobedience’ in front Iceland’s parliament in January, 2012. Sierra cracked the rock with a black cone, which “alludes to black cone-shaped hats that condemned...

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Monday’s Monument: 12 Stones, Selma, Alabama

Monday’s Monument: 12 Stones, Selma, Alabama

"When your children shall ask you in time to come, saying, what mean these twelve stones, then you shall tell them how you made it over." Joshua 4: 21-22 The verse inscribed on this stone monument near the Edmund Pettus Bridge refers the Israelites erecting a monument...

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Monday’s Monument: The Extra Mile, Washington, DC

Monday’s Monument: The Extra Mile, Washington, DC

The Extra Mile: Points of Light Volunteer Walkway is a monument dedicated to America’s belief in the power of individuals to make a difference in the world. The monument is just blocks from the White House and begins at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th...

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Monday’s Monument: Daniel O’Connell Statue, Dublin, Ireland

Monday’s Monument: Daniel O’Connell Statue, Dublin, Ireland

Unveiled on August 15, in 1882, the monument of the "Liberator" was designed and sculpted by John Henry Foley (who also designed the Albert Memorial in London.) Situated on the south side of O’Connell Street, the monument consists of three bronze sections separated by...

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Monday’s Monument: Peace Bridge, Derry, Northern Ireland

Monday’s Monument: Peace Bridge, Derry, Northern Ireland

The Derry Peace Bridge over the River Foyle crosses a 400 year old physical and political gap between two sides of a once bitterly divided community. Its two structural arms head in opposite directions, symbolizing the unification of both communities from the opposite...

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Monday’s Monument: Angels Unawares, Vatican City

Monday’s Monument: Angels Unawares, Vatican City

On September 29, 2019, following the celebration of Mass and the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis unveiled a sculpture entitled “Angels Unawares” by Canadian artist Timothy Schmaltz, in St Peter’s Square. It commemorates the 105th World Day of Migrants and...

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Monday’s Monument: Henge, Glenrothes, Scotland

Monday’s Monument: Henge, Glenrothes, Scotland

This circular henge sculpture by David Harding is comprised of 13 concrete slabs in spiral formation, gradually increasing in height from 2.0m to 2.75m. The inside faces of the henge in are in relief, each with a different decorative relief molding. References include...

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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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