Over the course of the past year or so, Confederate monuments have been especially laden with controversy. While millions have urged for their removal across the country, a smaller but spirited faction — including some with ties to White supremacist or other extremist groups — have demanded they stay, unchanged. Now, an initiative called The Black Monuments Project is proposing something new.
Started by Mic, The Black Monuments Project calls for Confederate monuments to be replaced with monuments instead dedicated to black history makers. Mic reporter Zak Cheney-Rice wrote of the project’s mission, “Published at the start of Black History Month, it repurposes our nation’s Confederate-centric memory of the Civil War as a chance to celebrate black heroes, well and lesser known, instead of the white supremacists who would see them locked in chains.”
Fifty-four black heroes were selected to be immortalized (one for each U.S. state and territory) and almost all of the figures included were born in the state they are affiliated with. The selection of historical people — such as Trayvon Martin, John Lewis, and Madam CJ Walker — includes “an even mix of highly visible figures and others who may be less familiar, encompassing fields ranging from music and sports to politics and abolition.”
A video accompanying the project, which you can watch above, features a few dozen celebrities and public figures explaining why each of these monuments is needed. “We need a monument for activist, actor, musical legend, and funder of a movement, Harry Belafonte,” said Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams. “And we need it in New York to honor his long work on social justice and civil rights.”
Also accompanying the project is an interactive map, which lets viewers learn more about each person chosen for a specific state or territory. In some instances, viewers can even use 3-D Snapchat filters that allow them to take a picture with an imagined statue of a black hero. In honor of Super Bowl LII yesterday, many shared photos of a statue of Colin Kaepernick (Wisconsin’s chosen figure) kneeling on the football field.
After White supremacists and other extremists protested the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, the deadly clash with counte- protesters that ensued reignited efforts to remove Confederate monuments around the country. While other campaigns advocating for the removal of these painful symbols have materialized, The Black Monuments Project takes a uniquely systemic yet compassionate approach to the issue.
“What better way to channel this energy than to imagine the varying ways it can be repurposed for good?” Mic asks. “May the Black Monuments Project push the conversation forward.”