The white supremacist gatherings that occurred in Charlottesville's historic parks this past summer underscore the timeliness of our March 2017 symposium, Race and Public Space. Commemorative Practices in the American South. Decades of political protests, legislation and court cases to expand who has a "the right to the city" were challenged by hate group rallies whose participants drew from all over the US. They came to Charlottesville because of City Council's decision to remove the Confederate statues from Lee and Jackson Parks, and to rename the two parks. But they also came because of Charlottesville's and the University's own troubled past of racial segregation that can be read in the sites of memory, the racialized topography, of our urban form and public spaces. Charlottesville's streets and neighborhoods, pedestrian malls and campus plazas became our public sphere once again. Demonstrators and counter-demonstrators gathered to bear witness, to challenge, and at time, to agitate. We experienced intimidation, violence, injury and murder. Since August, our community has gathered at public and private meetings to heal, and to argue for another sense of nation, another definition of American culture built on tolerance and acceptance, excellence through diversity, community despite difference. Now that the national and international press have moved on to other news stories, but continue to deploy the phrase "After Charlottesville, " the University and the City are collectively undertaking several initiatives to not only attend to the trauma of the summer, but to address long standing structural racism in our community. These efforts include a re-assessment of the RFP to redesign Emancipation (formerly Lee) Park and Justice (formerly Jackson) Park which were the sites of the August Unite the Right rally and the July KKK rally respectively. They involve serious attention by the University to its role in race relations given the enslaved labor that built its World Heritage Site and the admissions barriers to students of color that lasted for over 150 years after its founding. They also involve deliberations by the Center for Cultural Landscape co-Directors and our two Brown Graduate Fellows, Weaam Alabdullah and Alissa Diamond, about how we can contribute to a broader awareness of urban cultural landscapes as racialized topographies that warrant our research, analysis, interpretation, design and planning. We look forward to sharing the insights from our deliberations with you in future postings.
For more on the City and University ongoing responses to this past summer's rallies, and their aftermath, see http://www.charlottesville.org/community/info-hub-9160
For more on the University's ongoing research efforts to understand the legacy of slavery that was central to its founding, seehttp://presidents commission on slavery