Why one Historian Changed his Mind about the Calhoun MonumentRoundup
tags: slavery, John C. Calhoun, South Carolina, secession, monuments
Robert R. MacDonald is director emeritus of Museum of the City of New York and currently lives in Mount Pleasant.
The tide of history has finally caught up with John C. Calhoun.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and City Council are to be commended for their announcement that they will vote Tuesday to remove this shrine to white supremacy, an ideology that, sadly, is part of America’s DNA.
Unfortunately, it took the unjustified killings of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks by the police to reignite the debate on the role of racism in American history.
Three years ago, in a series of opinion pieces in this newspaper, I argued that the John C. Calhoun monument should not be removed. As a historian, I saw it as an essential educational opportunity.
But to be a viable source of learning, it needed more context. A city commission proposed a plaque full of words. Rightfully, it was rejected as inadequate. In a Dec. 14, 2017, op-ed, I suggested the alternative of placing a new monument dedicated to the victims of white supremacy adjacent to the Calhoun monument to complement Marion Square’s nearby Holocaust Memorial, which is dedicated to the victims of another racist ideology.
However, much has changed since then. The continued killing of unarmed black men and women by police and others, the growing inequalities among whites and nonwhites and the raucous return of white supremacists have led to the right decision to remove and relocate the Calhoun statue.
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