KYW In Depth: A history of building statues and tearing them down, from ancient Rome to America 2020 – KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Across the country, Americans are reckoning with statues of controversial figures throughout history, from Christopher Columbus to Robert E. Lee to Philadelphia’s Frank Rizzo.
The public audit of America’s monuments has boiled over in just the past month, coupled with the explosive rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Since then, activists have turned the spotlight on statues that commemorate figures associated with the Confederacy, genocide, even police brutality.
But this isn’t the first time in history that people have protested monuments of prominent people. America’s current civic climate is connected to a history that goes back much further than the Civil War or slavery in America.
Dr. Sarah Beetham, chair of liberal arts and an assistant professor of art history at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, said there has always been opposition to statues, specifically of Confederate soldiers. So if Americans opposed them from the get-go, why were they built in the first place?
“Two different kinds of monuments start getting made right after the (Civil) War: One of them is monuments recognizing the major military and political leaders in the North,” she explained. “(But) there is also this huge movement to recognize the sheer number of rank-and-file soldiers who were killed in the war. The loss of life in the Civil War was really unprecedented, and this was also a moment that people’s thoughts about