Teaching Confederate Monuments, Historical Memory

In tandem with the first post in a discussion series dedicated to following ongoing contests, debates, and discussions surrounding Confederate monuments named Confederate Symbols in Monument and Memory, teaching resources that investigate and contextualize the erection of monuments to Civil War participants provide a framework for teaching and learning. What follows is a collection of resources aimed at providing readers material and tools for meaningfully incorporating slavery and the contentious history of Confederate monuments into classroom discussions and lesson plans, but more importantly, into everyday conversations. Below you will find investigative reports, scholarly articles, scaffolded lesson plans with accompanying curriculum material, pedagogical notes and interviews with individuals finding new ways of teaching often marginalized history.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's February 2019 update of the 2016 report "Whose Heritage? Public Monuments of the Confederacy" notes that though many public symbols of the Confederacy located on public ground were removed in the wake of the events in Charleston 2015, "1,747 Confederate monuments, place names and other symbols" remain today. The report investigates several types of symbols, including the flag, monuments, and place markers, but also places their commemoration within a historical context, using visualizations to illustrate the span of time between the conclusion of the Civil War and dedication of many locations. Further, means by which threads of white supremacist ideology inherent to the Confederate platform--boasted by Alexander Stephens and others--persist in city codification and social practice are highlighted.


The Equal Justice Initiative’s 2018 report titled Segregation in America provides a detailed history of Confederate mythology in its concluding chapter, “Confederate Iconography In The 20th Century.” The chapter provides closure to an analysis of resistance by black Americans to social, economic, and political inequalities upheld by white supremacists from antebellum slavery to the present. In addition to serving as an apt resource for teaching and framing discussions about Confederate monuments and their purposes and implications, preceding chapters add invaluable historical context often absent from mainstream textbooks. The report includes a plethora of images, uniquely formatted chapters, and an extensive bibliography of sources that offer diverse perspectives and provide additional resources for continued research and teaching. Download a copy of the report for yourself, here.


Cameron D. Lippard's "Heritage or hate? A pedagogical guide to the Confederate flag in post-race America," provides one example of how a structured debate about the meaning of historical monuments to Confederate soldiers or the Confederacy, and discussions about historical memory and production, might be primed. Lippard emphasizes the importance of context, challenges several myths, and provides a guide for organizing structured debate within a classroom or learning environment. Read The Educational Resources Information Center's (ERIC.ed.gov) review and access a link to the article online, here.


The Choices Program, affiliated with Brown University’s Department of History, recently published a compendium of resources for teaching about slavery in the United States and the Civil War. Named The Civil War and the Meaning of Liberty, the collection includes content and material able to be purchased at a variety of prices, but several handouts, videos, and other resources are available for free, including a breakdown of individual lessons within the program, a supplemental reading list, an assortment of beneficial web links and related content, as well as similar lessons on other controversial topics in US history. Access the curriculum here.


History in Dispute: Charlottesville and Confederate Monuments exemplifies one lesson plan created by the Choices Program and includes audiovisual material and handouts. The model provides baseline objectives, notes for preparing teachers, a summary and sample of each handout and video—which distinguish historical memory, history, and memory, and investigate the role of citizens and government in shaping each—and also a detailed, scaffolded outline by which the teacher can introduce learners to the several levels of conflict and question surrounding controversial monuments to the Confederacy in the United States.


Jennifer Gonzalez explains how failure to adequately teach about slavery’s role in forming the United States has contributed to the inability of many to recognize and disassemble the fallacious statements often used by contemporary apologists to delegitimize questions about present inequities stemming from slavery. It is this so-called hard history that Gonzalez seeks to enable others to teach. Excerpts from an interview with Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University, host of the Teaching Hard History podcast, and Chair of the Teaching Hard History board, illustrate how resources created by Teaching Tolerance, a website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, aim to fill gaps in understanding at all levels, from students to faculty and administrators. Teaching Tolerance’s Framework for Teaching American Slavery, which includes a bibliography and compendium of additional resources, the Teaching Hard History podcast, and related SPLC reports are linked. Jennifer Gonzalez, “Improving the Way We Teach About Slavery,” Cult of Pedagogy, June 17, 2018.

There are a surprisingly few comprehensive works available that synthesize the contextual history of Confederate monuments and symbols and with frameworks or guides for bringing this material into classrooms and learning environments. In the present moment, where the ability to apply historical thinking to present conflicts is noticeably lacking among many in positions of decision-making power, and where the value of historical knowledge and the ability to think critically and independently is regularly under attack, the need for such resources is of increasing importance.

Any and all suggestions and recommendations are welcome and invited, as are any leads on resources of value to H-Slavery subscribers. Please share by contacting the network editors or posting a response to the Confederate Symbols in Monument and Memory discussion series.