Chicago Unveils New Plan for Controversial Public Monuments

Chicago Unveils New Plan for

( – The removal of historic monuments has seen a huge increase in the last several years — and now more than ever since the death of George Floyd. While there were incidents of monument vandalism and destruction during the George Floyd protests, there have also been movements by political leaders to remove controversial public artworks.

Chicago Monuments Project

Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot (D) revealed on Wednesday, February 17, that the city would be reviewing 41 monuments to ensure they remain suitable for public display. Anyone living in Chicago can register to comment on this matter on the Chicago Monuments Project website.

The Chicago Monuments Project was first launched last summer. After vandals targeted some memorials in the city, the action group reviewed over 500 monuments to ascertain whether they were still appropriate. This proposal of 41 monuments for general public review is the culmination of their work.

There were a number of criteria that would have made a memorial potentially unsuitable, including:

  • The promotion of white supremacy
  • The demeaning of Native Americans
  • A failure to give importance to the stories of women and other minorities

Among the monuments up for review are statues of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington.

Which Historical Figures Should We Memorialize?

This new development begs the question for citizens — what types of monuments should we commemorate? The debate rages on from both sides. For instance, a 2017 opinion piece from The Hill, called, “Why Removing Historical Monuments Is A Bad Idea,” delivers the common argument that taking down monuments is erasing history.

Meanwhile, other commentators have said certain types of artworks should be taken down and placed in museums. American Historical Association Executive Director James Grossman said as much in a 2020 interview with TIME, adding that they are rooted in the idea of “white supremacy.”

In 2017, New Orleans removed four Confederate monuments around the city due to issues surrounding racism and slavery. Officials in other cities such as Louisville, KY, Jacksonville, FA, and more have called for similar removals over the years.

It’s still unknown what will happen to the works of art in Chicago after they are reviewed. But in a press release on the Chicago website, Mayor Lightfoot called it an opportunity to “to face our history and what and how we memorialize that history.”

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