From the Northeast to the Midwest to the Deep South, contentious symbols of America’s past are coming down.
They include monuments to Confederate soldiers, statues of Christopher Columbus and bronze figures of controversial politicians — both old and recent displays that many people now consider to be emblematic of the nation’s ills and its long legacy of racism and oppression.
The swift removal in 2020 of these monuments and markers from public settings comes in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man whose death in police custody has reignited a national debate about such icons and whether they’re pieces of history that should be preserved or, instead, must be taken down and even destroyed. Note that not all removed statues are removed permanently, statues may be removed in an effort to preserve them from damage or to eventually be put in a museum.
While the dispute has persisted in the decades since the Jim Crow era, when many of the statues were dedicated, there was a movement in 2017 to remove them in cities such as Baltimore, New Orleans and Charlottesville, Virginia. But not all efforts were successful then. Today, many communities are picking up where those efforts left off, tearing the symbols down and sending out a powerful message.