The United States of America originated as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves explores how that history of slavery and its violent end was told in public space--specifically in the sculptural monuments that increasingly came to dominate streets, parks, and town squares in nineteenth-century America. Here Kirk Savage shows how the greatest era of monument building in American history arose amidst struggles over race, gender, and collective memory. As men and women North and South fought to define the war's legacy in monumental art, they reshaped the cultural landscape of American nationalism.
At the same time that the Civil War challenged the nation to reexamine the meaning of freedom, Americans began to erect public monuments as never before. Savage studies this extraordinary moment in American history when a new interracial order seemed to be on the horizon, and when public sculptors tried to bring that new order into concrete form. Looking at monuments built and unbuilt, Savage shows how an old image of black slavery was perpetuated while a new image of the common white soldier was launched in public space. Faced with the challenge of Reconstruction, the nation ultimately recast itself in the mold of the ordinary white man.
Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves, the first sustained investigation of monument building as a process of national and racial definition, probes a host of fascinating questions: How was slavery to be explained without exploding the myth of a "united" people? How did notions of heroism become racialized? And more generally, who is represented in and by monumental space? How are particular visions of history constructed by public monuments? Written in an engaging fashion, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in American culture, race relations, and public art.
"In a richly detailed and engagingly written study, art historian Kirk Savage traces the development of ... monuments in the context of the nation's still-uncompleted attempt to deal with the issues of race and collective memory."--The Boston Globe
"Savage's book ... underscores the importance of reading diverse texts--including mute monuments from the past. Racism, chiseled into our country's foundation, continues to confuse our commemorative rituals and, alas, our historical memory."--Raleigh (NC) News and Observer
"In a challenging addition to recent work on the place of the Civil War in American memory, Kirk Savage shows ingenuity in his analysis and interpretation of post-war commemorative sculpture."--The Times Literary Supplement
"[Savage's] astute observations reveal not only the theoretical foundation of racism embedded in sculpture but the importance of the aesthetic dimension of racial history. . . . [A] tour de force."--Library Journal
"Well researched and elegantly written, this work is a powerful statement about the relationship of the Civil War and race to monuments and public space."--Florida Historical Quarterly
"Kirk Savage joins the growing literature on the politics of public memory and commemoration with the rich scholarship on race and nationhood. His book is a finely conceptualized, beautifully argued study of the challenges of representing the new postwar relationship of black to white."--Angela Miller, Washington University
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations
Ch. 1 Introduction 3
Ch. 2 Exposing Slavery 21
Ch. 3 Imagining Emancipation 52
Ch. 4 Freedom's Memorial 89
Ch. 5 Slavery's Memorial 129
Ch. 6 Common Soldiers 162
Ch. 7 Epilogue 209