Scholars Discuss Civil War Era Monuments in Virginia at Symposium

Posted: Updated: Mar 09, 2017 06:48 PM
symposium at American Civil War Museum in Richmond symposium at American Civil War Museum in Richmond

Civil War historians are debating the future of controversial Confederate monuments across the commonwealth, especially in Charlottesville.

The city's recent decision to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee was a hot topic at a Civil War symposium in Richmond Saturday.

The American Civil War museum hosted the symposium. The theme "lightning rods for controversy" brought researchers from throughout Virginia to discuss their honest thoughts on Civil War monuments.

"This is about the past, the present, and the future," John Coski said.

People packed into the Library of Virginia in Richmond to talk about the hot button topic across the commonwealth: the future of Civil War monuments.

"There's really never been a time that monuments haven't been in the news," Coski said.

The symposium allows scholars to share their thoughts on how communities commemorate Civil War history.

"What is lacking in often times in these discussions is background perspective so what we try to contribute to the dialogue is background information," Coski said.

Charlottesville was one of the communities discussed at this year's symposium, just weeks after City Councilors voted to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Lee Park.

"Charlottesville is now, in my opinion, the center of this controversy nationally," University of Virginia professor Ervin Jordan said.

Jordan believes City Council still needs to listen to both sides of the statue debate.

“Communities across Virginia and the country are grappling with the issue of whether Confederate monuments still have a place in civic spaces, and if not then what's to be done with them?” Jordan said.

Christy Coleman with the American Civil War Museum says emotions are the "backbone of the statue controversy."

"Everything is very emotion-driven, and not that emotions aren't good but we have to be informed. We have to really understand the choices we are making,” Coleman said.

She says having scholars weigh in on the discussion may make a difference.

"I think what we've seen in town halls and city councils have often not included these voices in the discussion, so we are providing this voice," Coleman said.

Participating scholars want this event to be the beginning of a discussion to carry over into the American Civil War Museum's exhibits.

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