Last summer I was in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, and visited the Museum of Communism. The museum had compelling exhibits on secret police interrogation, censorship, show trials, state propaganda, political labor camps, and the valiant but crushed 1968 uprising known as Prague Spring. The statues of Lenin and Stalin are by the toilets. The museum also covers the 1989 Velvet Revolution that deposed the communist regime that had ruled since 1948.
Prague also has in the Jewish Quarter a memorial documenting the history of the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin. The city also has a Cold War museum, and a Vaclav Havel Library. That library documents the life of the playwright and dissident who became Czechoslovakia’s president—restoring honesty about the area’s troubled past. In 1993 the Czech Republic and Slovakia had a peaceful and mutually agreeable split.
Now it’s time to come to terms with a failed and bloody attempted U.S. split, fueled by hate and done in the name and service of our ugly history of slavery.
The Southern Poverty Law Center tallies some 105 public Confederate symbols in Tennessee. Nationwide, the latest count is that are roughly 1800 Confederate monuments, statues, and other public displays, symbols, and named item in the U.S. Of those, some 775 are monuments and statues. The others often require relatively simple renaming—such as parks, bases, highways, and government buildings.
It may take some number of large transports to follow through with my plan—move the statues and monuments to a new Museum of Racist Rebellion, and I have in mind a perfect location for it.
Stone Mountain, Georgia, is home to a bas relief Confederate memorial, spanning three acres and thus is larger than Mount Rushmore. It is 90 feet tall, 190 feet wide, and up to 40 feet deep in the crannies. It sits high on a piece of exposed granite, and before the pandemic visitors were treated to a laser show on its face. Three rebel traitors—Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson—are shown on horseback, hats in hand and held over their hearts.
In 1915, a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Helen Plane, began her lobbying to sculpt the southern face of the former granite quarry into a monument to white Southern heroes. By Thanksgiving night that year the moribund Ku Klux Klan revived with a cross burning atop Stone Mountain. The assembled racists borrowed much of their ceremony from Birth of a Nation scenes. The monument project went through various fits and starts as Klansmen sometimes used the mountain for hooded hate rallies.
Even as racial strife tore through American cities in the 1960s and civil rights legislation finally passed, the racist-honoring sculpture lurched forward. By 1970 then Vice President and future felon Spiro Agnew was attending the dedication. Now it’s time for a better design and a new dedication
Area streets such as Robert E. Lee Boulevard and Jefferson Davis Drive should be renamed for Georgia civil rights heroes like John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr. A sculpture garden of Nathan Bedford Forrest statues could be accompanied by large displays about the Fort Pillow Massacre. Similar plaques and displays should accompany the other moved monuments.
Prague has shown us the way to take note of the past without honoring historic villains. We’ve had plenty of time to get this right. Let’s get moving on a Museum of Racist Rebellion at Stone Mountain—and put our nation’s traitors in context there.