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Southern Lawmakers Call for Review of Public Artworks After Charlottesville Rally

In the wake of the violent white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, is among several Southern politicians asking state officials to look into their city’s inventory of public art and determine which pieces, if any, could be interpreted as honoring bigotry, racism, or slavery. The rally in Charlottesville was held in protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park, pending a judge’s ruling expected later this month.

On Monday, August 14, Mayor Greg Fischer directed the Louisville Commission on Public Art to commence a review of its holdings in preparation for a community conversation about the works displayed. “I recognize that some people say all these monuments should be left alone, because they are part of our history,” Fischer said in a statement. “But we need to discuss and interpret our history from multiple perspectives and from different viewpoints. That’s why a community conversation is crucial.” Meanwhile, the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, Jim Gray, has declared that he has heard from “many of our citizens” and is accelerating plans to remove two statues of Confederate general and slave owner John Hunt Morgan and Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge from the lawn of the former Fayette County Courthouse. “It’s the right thing to do,” he told the Washington Post.

The controversy over the monuments also prompted more than one hundred people to gather in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday in protest of a statue of a Confederate soldier that was erected in front of the old Durham County Courthouse nearly a century ago. Participants eventually took matters into their own hands and toppled the figure. That same day, demonstrators in Nashville marched between the city’s House and Senate chambers, demanding the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from in front of the state capitol building. They chanted, “White silence is violence,” and “Tear it down.” In order to remove the statue, which commemorates the Confederate general and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, the Tennessee Historical Commission would have to secure a two-thirds vote in favor of the decision. Tennessee governor Bill Haslam has spoken out in favor of the action.