What should be done with monuments dedicated to historical figures whose actions or views are considered cruel, unjust, or immoral? In the following essays, two writers grapple with this question.

In “Monumental Stupidity,” author and historian Gary Kamiya argues for the preservation of such statues. He writes that activists and civic leaders fail “to recognize that monuments are historical artifacts, and the way many people receive them changes with the passage of time.” He kicks off his argument by looking at statues removed in his hometown of San Francisco.

In “The Slag Heap of History,” published earlier this year, journalist and author Tim Wendel offers a different view. He applauds the dismantling of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia. (One of them—depicting Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson—is destined for an art exhibit in Los Angeles.) Wendel writes that providing context for troubling statues “doesn’t mean we are required to honor yesteryear’s evil in our public spaces.”

From the first issue of Alta Journal, we’ve made space for articles about the history of California and the West. By publishing viewpoints like Kamiya’s and Wendel’s, we seek to contextualize, critique, and consider the past to better understand the present.

We invite you to share your thoughts on these articles and what you think should be done with controversial monuments. Drop us a line at letters@altaonline.com.•

san francisco, early days monument, racial justice
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Monumental Stupidity

Historian Gary Kamiya argues that censoring public art dumbs down our culture, diminishes the texture of our cities, and sets back the cause of social justice.

a statue of confederate general thomas “stonewall” jackson in charlottesville, virginia, was taken to storage on july 10, 2021

The Slag Heap of History

Author Tim Wendel writes that Stonewall Jackson’s statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, should be melted down. Instead, the Confederate general is bound for Los Angeles.