This Note was written between September 2018 and March 2019 as part of St. John’s University School of Law’s two-semester Perspectives on Justice class. At the time that this Note was written, there was a growing urgency to address the Confederate monuments around the United States, but little had been done by states or the federal government. At the time, many states, including Virginia, had in place Heritage Protection Acts which made the removal or relocation of such monuments punishable under criminal law, thus tying the hands of the localities where the monuments were located. However, in just two short years, the entire legal landscape surrounding this topic has changed.
Following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the United States saw a massive shift in public opinion, with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement gaining incredible attention and widespread support. Since the first demonstrations in Minneapolis on May 26, 2020, over seven million people have participated in over 4,700 different protests around the country, making the BLM movement the largest in the United States history.
Quite a few of these demonstrations have resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments by protestors. However, some locations have had creative ways of “reimagining” the monuments. For example, in Richmond, Virginia, BLM “reclaimed” a monument of Robert E. Lee by projecting the “faces of Black activists and thinkers, including Rep. John Lewis, D. Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and [W.E.B.] Du Bois, overtop the statue.” As a result, “the surrounding area has become a hub for protests and gatherings, as people show up in support of the Black Lives Matter movement . . . .” In a way, this is exactly what this Note proposes—reimagining monuments to be more inclusive and educational.