Disappearance of Davis: What Next?

On May 11th 2017, the City of New Orleans removed its statue of Jefferson Davis, the first and only President of the Confederacy.  Jefferson Davis’s statue was removed due to its pro-slavery and discriminatory subtext, but this removal met significant resistance by those claiming Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy as part of local history and heritage. New Orleans has not yet designated a place or forum for the statue to be displayed, so for now, it remains in storage of some kind. This begs the question, what are we to do with historical monuments that have been or will be removed? One proposal is that these monuments should be placed in a museum type setting that can provide a better context for this monument and others like it. As part of this contextualization, curators need to make a distinction between the depicted figures in their respective eras and the creators of the statue in their respective era. In this particular instance, Jefferson Davis’s monument was installed in 1911, a full fifty years after Davis declared his presidency and in the heat of segregation and Jim Crow laws. Because of the later date of this installment, the monument can be seen as a representation of the revisionist history of post-Reconstruction. Another curatorial addition for this particular monument would be the public’s response to it; for instance, someone graffitied “slave owner” across the  base of the statue for all to see. By doing this, curators could display responses of the public, both in protest of and in defense of this monument.

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