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Removing Racist Symbols Isn’t a Denial of History

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tags: Confederate Memorials, AHA2016, Confederate Heritage



Christopher Phelps is an associate professor of American studies at the University of Nottingham, in England, and co-author, with Howard Brick, of Radicals in America: The U.S. Left Since the Second World War (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Thumbnail Image - University of Cape Town

Across the world, campus symbols from the epoch of avowed white supremacy have come under sharp criticism from students and their allies.

At the University of Cape Town, academically the highest-ranked institution in Africa, a "Rhodes Must Fall" campaign last year compelled the removal of a monument to Cecil Rhodes, the diamond-mining baron, British imperialist, and progenitor of South Africa’s system of apartheid. Students splattered the statue with buckets of excrement and paint.

Emboldened by Cape Town, students in England — their organizers originating from formerly colonized regions of the world — have faulted Rhodes’s legacy at Oxford University as well, prompting Oriel College to agree to removal of a plaque praising him for "great services rendered." Students now are calling for removal of a Rhodes statue as well.

In the United States, a Black Lives Matter generation has entered college challenging comparable symbols. They are motivated by recent events from Ferguson, Mo., to Charleston, S.C., where the Confederate flag did not serve as a harmless relic of a long-dead past but sustained present-day racist violence.

At Yale, a campaign demands renaming the residential college for someone other than John C. Calhoun, an antebellum senator from South Carolina who supported slavery. At Princeton, a sit-in prompted the university to agree to contemplate stripping all buildings of the name of Woodrow Wilson, a former president of both that university and the United States. At Harvard Law School, the "Royall Must Fall" campaign objects to the school’s crest, which is adapted from the coat of arms of the slave-owning Royall family. ...

Read entire article at The Chronicle of Higher Education


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