Confederate Statues Are Not Culturally Important
The monuments and statues of Confederate-era generals were not erected by people to remember history but a way to reshape it.
Jul 31, 2020Updated 1 month ago
The vast majority were erected long after the war itself. And most of them were privately commissioned.
The statues are not culturally significant artifacts from the Civil War-era because most of them were built decades later.
The vast majority of Confederate statues were commissioned in the early 1900s, at the height of Jim Crow laws. Nearly 400 statues were commissioned during that period alone, as racist Southerners tried to recast history to justify discriminatory practices.
The choice to have the statues was not a decision made by the people, or even by local government—the statues were rather commissioned by private interest groups. The United Daughters of the Confederacy sponsored hundreds of statues during this time period alone.
This decision was part of a much broader campaign to reshape Civil War history at the dawn of the 20th century. The United Daughters of the Confederacy has continued the quest long after the close of the war, commissioning a statue as recently as 2011.
Confederate statues were built not to remember the past, but to revise our understanding of the Civil War and to inspire a possible future where that understanding becomes operational.
In other words, statues of Robert E. Lee were never about honoring his legacy as much as hinting at a future where once again white Americans would rise above and rule Black Americans and other people of color.
It’s only when the act of creating the monument is significant that the result itself is meaningful. They are imbued with value when they represent core principles.
The Egyptian pyramids were a testament to architectural prowess and human sacrifice. Their existence represents both the rulers who commissioned them and the laborers who strained to build them.
The 130 or so pyramids were built as tombs and mausoleums for the region's royal families, the oldest of which was built around 2600 BC. How these massive structures were constructed with no modern machinery, in the middle of a desert, largely remains a mystery, though some recently discovered evidence suggests an ingenious use of pulley and ramp systems.
The shape of the pyramids itself is a testament to the visionary thinking of their architects. Some think the pyramid shape mimics the rays of sun, shining down upon the earth. Pyramids were often finished off with limestone on their faces so they could be visible across the desert.
The pyramids were a symbol of the pharaohs' power at the time, with many revered as demigods. But, the structures themselves also stand as a testament to the generations of laborers who toiled to build them, many of them slaves.
The pyramids are now inscribed in UNESCO's list of top world heritage sites for their cultural significance. They are also considered one of the original "seven wonders of the world."
The authenticity and enduring integrity of the work after centuries is part of what makes them so special. UNESCO called the Great Pyramid of Giza "the only surviving wonder of the ancient world."
They pyramids are important not only for their aesthetic and architectural beauty but for their historical significance. Even today, historians are still learning new things about ancient Egypt by studying the pyramids.
The Milan Duomo has an interesting background for how it came into existence. It represents centuries of artistic innovation.
Italian art and architecture is world renowned, but Milan's Cathedral, or Duomo, is one the most intricately crafted and artistic structures in the world. At more than 600 years old, the Duomo remains the fifth largest Christian church in the world.
Construction on the Duomo began all the way back in the 14th century—in 1386–and only finished in 1965. Throughout the centuries, several generations of Italy's best craftsman put their life's work into the building and its decoration.
But, it's not just the building itself that is impressive and a testament to Italian religious artistry. The Duomo, which took nearly six centuries to complete, is home to a treasure chest of artworks.
The cathedral houses some 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures on its face and inside as well. All are handcrafted and share an aesthetic with the Duomo itself.
The construction involved hundreds of architects and artisans throughout the years, and the Duomo reflects both the periods of time during during which it was constructed and the individuals who made it what it has become today.
Paris' Notre Dame represents centuries of construction and reconstruction. The artistry, the materials, the labor, the sacrifice, and the endurance bear witness to generations of Parisians.
The medieval Catholic cathedral has been part of the Parisian architecture skyline since 1260. It has withstood the French Revolution, Napoleon, World War I, World War II, bombing attempts, and the 2019 fire.
The building represents the enduring spirit of centuries of Parisians. It is as much a testament to the artistry involved in the use of flying buttresses to the delicate details in awe-inspiring stained glass windows, as to how the city of Paris continues to thrive.
The very architecture was also called "a poor people's book" because of the many sculptures which line its walls and face depicting scenes from the Bible to benefit the illiterate. Some sculptures were destroyed by French revolutionaries, but many remain.
The church, meaning "Our Lady" in French, has seen innumerable historic events. It was once the seat of the archbishop, and it served as the location for Henry VI's coronation. It would later inspire Victor Hugo to write "the Hunchback of Notre Dame," in which he referred to the cathedral as a "symphony in stone."
Following the 2019 fire, author Summer Brennan wrote: "Notre Dame has borne witness to the rituals of Paris; its markets, its protest and revolutions, its lovers. The cyclops gaze of its rose windows — miraculously spared through this latest disaster — have observed as the days and decades and centuries pass through the hands of the city like prayer beads. Be it magic or art that most animates such a place for you, each share the power to conjure. We are all, sometimes, in need of sanctuary."
These statues are not relics of history—they're closer to propaganda. As such, they are not culturally significant.
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