From the July 2020 Desktop News | Like many others, Dr. Hilary Green has spent the past few weeks watching monuments to Confederate soldiers be removed from town squares, college campuses, and government buildings all over the country. Utilizing her expertise in nineteenth century American history, Green is working to document this moment in history by creating a map that compiles the discussions around these removals.
Green, an associate professor in the department of gender and race studies, is known around UA’s campus for her immersive approach to teaching, whether she’s helping students sort through the University’s extensive archives or giving one of her walking tours of campus. Since the monuments began to be removed this year, Green decided to create an archive for this moment in history—an interactive map tracking the removals. Although she only started it in the past month, she’s documented dozens of removals spanning back to 1891.
“While I was seeing these monuments be removed, I realized that I was going to have to write and teach about this moment,” Green said. “How can I develop something that’s quick and easy, and then I can bring it into the classroom? How can I make it visual and make it accessible? So I decided to see if I could create a contemporary archive, and then, if I’m asked about it, I can provide some concrete data, and give people a sense of the trends.”
Since the creation of the map, it has received over 10,000 views, and has been cited by multiple journalists and historians. Green was also recently quoted in stories by the New York Times, Bloomberg, the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, and several pieces by AL.com to give context to the history and culture surrounding Confederate monuments.
“The first phase occurred when women across the nation were remembering the dead after the Civil War,” Green said. “They were putting up headstones, reclaiming bodies, creating cemeteries— so the first monuments were actually in cemeteries. And this wasn’t just white women. You have African American women, you have Native American women—women from every part of the country.
“But the monuments that are under protest now were created between 1880 and 1920 with the rise of Jim Crow. These became public spaces that said to African Americans that their place in society was inferior. It said, ‘Even though you are now free and slavery is no more, you are not equal in this place.’”
Although it may seem like a large percentage of statues and monuments have been removed, Green says that there are hundreds still standing. Nevertheless, Green is hopeful that the momentum of these conversations about racism and white supremacy will continue in communities around the country.
“Many people think that taking down the monuments is the end of the conversation, but I will argue that it’s the beginning,” Green said. “The tension and underlying issues that led to the removals are still there. So let’s use these removals as a starting point, and let us come together and develop community-based solutions. Let us have these hard conversations. Let us use this as a point of opening to deal with unresolved issues that have been manifested to the present.”