Removal of Confederate Monuments from Forest Hill Cemetery
The Madison Trust for Historic Preservation believes that historic preservation requires taking our history seriously. We have an obligation to confront the complex and difficult chapters of our past, and to recognize the many ways that our understanding, and characterization, of our shared American story continues to shape our present and future.
The issue of Confederate monuments in public spaces is one such complex issue with historical, current, and future considerations and implications. Simple grave markers erected shortly after the Civil War by grieving Southern families to honor their fallen leaders and loved ones are appropriate markers of history. However, the many monuments—including those in Forest Hill Cemetery—that were erected much later as a celebration of white supremacy present more difficult questions of appropriateness.
All Confederate monuments are historically significant, and are essential to the understanding our nation’s history. But it is critical to distinguish between viewing the monuments as learning tools that can lead to a better future for all Americans, and viewing them as acceptable expressions of a history of hatred and bigotry.
In light of this important distinction, the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation supports the removal of the Confederate cenotaph and plaque from Forest Hill Cemetery. It is important that the monuments not remain in a context that celebrates white supremacy, and the hatred and violence that it can foment. Further, we support the placement of the monuments in an appropriate learning environment, which engenders thoughtful discussion of the Civil War, its causes, and current day struggles with these issues. In this way, the monuments can be preserved and can help to unite, rather than divide, our country.