Events Focus on Controversy Over Confederate Monuments

lee monument
Robert E. Lee monument in Baltimore being removed

The role of monuments to the Confederacy, and the recent movement to remove them, will be the core subject of two UC Davis events in January.

“Memorials and Monuments: Lessons from Charlottesville, New Orleans and Port Chicago,” featuring several UC Davis faculty members, will be held Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Sierra 2 Center’s 24th Street Theatre, 2791 24th St., Sacramento. 

Part of a new series by the UC Davis Humanities Institute, the event will reflect on recent incidents in Charlottesville and New Orleans, among other places, and how nations memorialize the past. 


  • Gregory Downs, professor of history, is a leading historian of the Civil War spearheading an effort to create a National Park site devoted to Reconstruction and emancipation. 
  • Javier Arbona, professor of American studies and design, is completing a project on memorial landscapes, black resistance and World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area. 
  • Humanities Institute director Jaimey Fisher, professor of German and cinema, has written about Germany’s relationship to its difficult past.
Stonewall Jackson memorial in Virginia 

The UC Davis Human Rights Program lecture series presents “Confederate Monuments, Civil Rights Memorials and Civic Values” with Dell Upton, art history chair at UCLA, and Ari Kelman, associate dean and history professor at UC Davis. It takes place at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25 at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. 

“My talk will address the complex ways that conflicting values — of inclusive citizenship (the Civil Rights Movement) and of the celebration of a white supremacist movement (the Confederacy and its aftermath) — play out in public spaces, particularly, but not only in the South,” said Upton, a preeminent thinker on the role of race, monuments and memorials.  “In the debates over these monuments, competing claims about history and heritage as well as confusion over the status of monuments as commemorations of the past or as historic artifacts themselves, serve to illuminate the strains in the contemporary American body politic.”

Upton is author of the 2015 book What Can and Can’t Be Said, a study of civil rights and African American history monuments in the South. His thoughts on the current controversy over Confederate monuments can be explored in a recent piece he wrote in September for The Society of Architectural Historians website

Both events are free and open to the public. 

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science