Interpreting Empty Pedestals

In 1975, the city of Demopolis’s public square was added to the National Register of Historic Places under the common name of Confederate Park. Across from the city park in the middle of the intersection on a granite pedestal stood a marble statue of a Confederate soldier. The monument was erected in October of 1910 by the Marengo Rifles Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The monument was not taken down to because of public pressure or from a judicial ruling requiring the city to remove the statue; it was taken down in much simpler and quicker way. In July of 2016, a local on duty police officer fell asleep at the wheel of his patrol car and hit the granite pedestal sending the marble soldier to the ground.

What qualifies the Confederate statue in Demopolis as a case study, in answering what should be done with Confederate monuments after their removal, is not the political conversation or public spotlight in which the monument was removed. It is the way in which the city of Demopolis handled the decision of what to do with the monument after the accident. Should the monument be rebuilt and the soldier raised back to loom over the city center or should the circumstances be used as an opportunity to alter the city’s shared public space.

Because of current political actions on the state and national levels, the original statue nor the replacement monument (that was approved by the city council) have been resurrected. The pedestal now sits empty. Demopolis’s example gives a warning of what must be done with the monuments, they must be interpreted. They must be confronted and conversed over. The public should be introduced to the history of the monument: who constructed the monument, why did they decide on that particular image, why that location, what did other members of the city think of the statue.

 

An article on the monument from the Washington Post can be found here. 

Leave a Reply