[VIRTUAL] THE SERIES ON RACE PART II - Race and Public Monuments


Thomas J. Brown '81, HLS '84, Ph.D. '95, Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, delves into the controversial dismantling of racially offensive monuments. 

Americans have recently intensified a reassessment of their memorial landscape, dismantling many racially offensive monuments and inspiring similar protests around the world. The repudiation began with Confederate monuments, extended to other celebrations of white supremacism, and has sometimes challenged the general authority of public monuments as a form of power. In this conversation, historian Thomas Brown returns to the Civil War origins of the American tradition of public monuments. We will focus specifically on works connected with Harvard that illustrate different approaches to Civil War remembrance, including Memorial Hall, the soldier monuments in Cambridge Common and Newburyport, the Shaw/54th Memorial in Boston Common, Soldiers Field, and the Charles Sumner statue in Harvard Square. Race was a central theme in the ideological positions debated through these commemorations. The brief overview will illuminate the leading alternatives and prevailing patterns in the establishment of an American memorial vocabulary during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This framework will inform an open forum that will engage participants’ interests in discussing public monuments in Washington, in the former Confederacy, or elsewhere in the United States.  


Thomas Brown is professor of history at the University of South Carolina, where he has taught since 1996. He received his A. B. from Harvard College in 1981 and J. D. from Harvard Law School in 1984. After working as a federal judicial clerk and an associate for Covington & Burling in Washington, he earned a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University in 1995. His research has long focused on Civil War commemoration and especially on public monuments. Among other publications, he is the co-editor of Hope and Glory: Essays on the Legacy of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment (2001) and author of Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina (2015). The Society of Civil War Historians has honored his Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America (2019) as the most outstanding book about the Civil War published last year. 


Suggested Reading

Kirk Savage, “The Question of Monuments,” Lapham’s Quarterly, July 13, 2020 https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/question-monuments

Hilarie M. Sheets, “A Monument Man Gives Memorials New Stories to Tell,” New York Times, Jan. 23, 2020 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/arts/design/Krzysztof-Wodiczko.html

Dell Upton, “Monuments and Crimes,” Journal18 (June 2020), http://www.journal18.org/5022



Race and Public Monuments (Virtual)

When: October 15, 2020, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Fee:     Free to Club Members 

           $15 for Nonmembers. This series will continue in 2021. (Better yet, Join the Club as this series will continue in 2021! )