Race & Public Space Resource List

Charlottesville Downtown Mall

The Inaugural Symposium of the Center for Cultural Landscapes, “Race and Public Space: Commemorative Practices in the American South,” investigates the intersections between scholarship and practice around race, memory, and commemoration. It will take place March 24-25, 2017 at the UVA School of Architecture. 

The event features Dell Upton as a keynote speaker and a half-day workshop program on Saturday with Mabel O. Wilson, John Mason, Sara Zewde, and other speakers on contested sites of commemoration in the southeastern United States. The program kicks off the Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) initiative Transforming Community Spaces: Bending the Arc of Memory Towards Healing and Justice, which seeks to develop guidance for communities and institutions seeking to tell a more complete racial history and change their narrative through the representation of their past history, identity and values. For the full program and to register, click here


To prepare for the symposium, we have compiled a resource list with information on the IEN initiative, the City of Charlottesville’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces, other communities in the American South that have faced issues around race and commemoration, and more. Learn about the context behind these issues on a local, regional, and national scale and join us for the conversation in March! 

University of Virginia

The Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) Initiative Transforming Community Spaces: Bending the Arc of Memory Towards Healing and Justice seeks to develop, enact, and share guidance for communities and institutions to address their past through engagement, learning, creativity, and consensus building. This effort will include:

·      convening a diverse national stakeholder group of artists, designers, and historians to provide guidance throughout this process

·      development of case studies of communities navigating their way through change to public spaces, including New Orleans, Baltimore, Charlottesville, and more

·      production of a comprehensive guidance document that includes best practices for community consensus building

·      testing and implementation of this guidance for collaborative change with experienced partners in key areas of the country

Formed in 2013, the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University seeks to explore and report on UVA’s historical relationship with slavery, highlighting opportunities for recognition and commemoration. One of the key projects that informed the creation of the commission is the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia, an initiative that began in 2011 and now is in the implementation phase, with the approval of the design team of Höweler + Yoon, Mabel O. Wilson, Gregg Bleam and Associates, and IEN's Frank Dukes. The memorial project aims to responds to a deep need to address an untold and uncomfortable history - one that is still very much a difficult, though necessary, national conversation on race. It is vital to highlight those African American historical sites, ones that are often hiding in plain sight.

UVA Scholars Host Discussion on Jefferson's Legacy with Race NBC29, February 20, 2017

UVA Memorial WMRA, February 27, 2017

Local Context

In May 2016, the Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution to form the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces. The formation of the commission arose out of controversy around statues of Confederate figures on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. The commission's mission included the directives to:

·      develop an engagement format for community forums

·      research other cities who have taken on similar responsibilites as the Blue Ribbon Commission

·      create an inventory of historical sites in the City of Charlottesville that are related to the City Council charge

·      examine the full history of inventoried sites in Charlottesville and research histories that haven't been told

The commission's members are Rachel Lloyd (PLACE representative), Margaret O’Bryant (Historic Resources Committee representative), Andrea Douglas, Frank Dukes, Don Gathers (Chair), Melvin Burruss, Jane Smith, John Mason (Vice Chair), and Sue Lewis. 

You can view the commission's final report to City Council here: Commission Report to City Council, Winter 2016


Below is a collection of articles on the Charlottesville Blue Ribbon Commission and the City Council's decision for how to proceed with the downtown statues: 

Just how do you reinterpret history? Daily Progress, November 26, 2016

Council approves plan for Vinegar Hill Park Charlottesville Tomorrow, December 6, 2016

Fenwick says he’ll vote to remove statue C-Ville Weekly, January 26, 2017

City parks to be redesigned, renamed along with Lee statue removal Daily Progress, February 7, 2017

A Virginia city votes to remove a Confederate statue, but doing so may prove difficult Washington Post, February 8, 2017

Protesters mob provocative Va. governor candidate as he defends Confederate statue The Washington Post, February 11, 2017

Republican gubernatorial candidate holds rally in support of Lee statue The Cavalier Daily, February 22, 2017

Charlottesville was right to want to remove a Robert E. Lee statue The Washington Post, February 24, 2017

Why Charlottesville's council voted to remove Robert E. Lee Daily Progress, June 4, 2017

For further information on the Charlottesville urban design context, see the The Vinegar Hill Project. A university research initiative led by Scot French and Bill Ferster, the project uses the context of the historical Vinegar Hill neighborhood in Charlottesville to address the question: Can the thoughtful application of new technologies, informed by archival research and sustained civic engagement, reveal new understandings of urban renewal and its longterm impact on the health and welfare of a community?


Regional Context

The resources below document issues of race and commemoration in other cities and town across Virginia and Maryland to provide regional context for the challenges Charlottesville currently faces.

State Directives


Endangered Sites & Historic Preservation

Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia, Lynn Rainville

In Hidden History, Lynn Rainville travels through the forgotten African American cemeteries of central Virginia to recover information crucial to the stories of the black families who lived and worked there for over two hundred years. The subjects of Rainville’s research are not statesmen or plantation elites; they are hidden residents, people who are typically underrepresented in historical research but whose stories are essential for a complete understanding of our national past.

Virginia’s most endangered places include black cemeteries, a legislative office complex, and a former slave dwelling The Washington Post, May 3, 2016

For the Forgotten African American Dead, The New York Times January 7, 2017

Historic black cemeteries seeking the same support Virginia gives Confederates The Washington Post, February 11, 2017

Lawmaker wants history of formerly enslaved African Americans in Virginia inventoried, promoted The Virginian Pilot, February 15, 2017

Alexandria, VA

Alexandria will seek to move Confederate statue and rename Jefferson Davis Highway The Washington Post, September 17, 2016

Despite Alexandria council vote, little chance ‘Appomattox’ statue will be moved The Washington Post, September 25, 2016

Baltimore, MD

Baltimore's Confederate Memory & Monuments Baltimore's Civil Rights Heritage

Status of Confederate statues to be reviewed in Baltimore The Baltimore Sun, June 30, 2015

Monumental Decision Baltimore Magazine, January 2016

Confederate Monument in Baltimore Park Presents a Dilemma The Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2016

Danville, VA

Based in Danville, History United (HU) uses local history to encourage investment in the future of the Dan River Region and to build a strong collaborative network of organizations and individuals committed to positive change. This is a proactive partnership and a joint effort to expand and enhance programs and networks that support a richer historical narrative and greater investment in the future of this area. 

With the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities as an institutional home, History United works closely with a local Advisory Council and an on-site project coordinator in the Danville area to:

  • establish a network of cultural organizations in the region
  • conduct in-depth research leading to an on-line (“Sites and Stories”) resource on the region’s African American historic sites
  • produce a series of community conversations and other programs exploring local history
  • develop local history-oriented programs for teachers in the Danville region
  • engage younger residents in these efforts
  • and work with local organizations to build institutional capacity and a sense of shared purpose

At the end of the project, History United anticipates that one or more lead local organizations will have capacity take on this collaborative work in the region.

Norfolk, VA

Norfolk council decides to keep Confederate monument The Virginian-Pilot, September 23, 2015

Richmond, VA

Race-Tinged Furor Stalls Arthur Ashe Memorial The New York Times, July 9, 1995

Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue vandalized The Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 25, 2015

Past and Present: The Many-Sided History of the Monument Avenue Debate Richmond Magazine June 25, 2015

Civil War symposium explores past, present and future of monuments Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 25, 2017

National Context

The works of scholarship outlined in this section address the question of race and commemoration from a national perspective that takes a broad historical sweep to consider how these issues have evolved over time. We are honored to have Dell Upton and Mabel O. Wilson, authors included in this section, join us for the March symposium to help us shape our inquiry.

Sites of Memory: Perspectives on Architecture and Race, Craig Barton

The issue of race in architecture is a complicated and often divisive one. Traditional methods of architectural history and theory tend to attribute a city's civic and cultural identity to the dominant culture. Ignored are more marginal cultures without a tradition of public building, often preventing a complete understanding of the city and the forces that shape it. These essays explore the historic and contemporary effects of race upon the development of the built environment, and examine the myths and realities of America's racial landscapes. Its multi-disciplinary approach identifies and interprets the black cultural landscape, examining its visual, spatial, and ideological dimensions.

Landscapes of Exclusion: State Parks and Jim Crow in the American South, William E. O'Brien

A volume in the series Designing the American Park; Winner, J. B. Jackson Book Prize from the Foundation for Landscape Studies

An outgrowth of earlier park movements, the state park movement in the twentieth century sought to expand public access to scenic places. But under severe Jim Crow restrictions in the South, access for African Americans was routinely and officially denied. The New Deal  brought a massive wave of state park expansion, and advocacy groups pressured the National Park Service to design and construct segregated facilities for African Americans. These parks were typically substandard in relation to “white only” areas. After World War II, the NAACP filed federal lawsuits that demanded park integration, and southern park agencies reacted with attempts to expand access to additional segregated facilities, hoping they could demonstrate that their parks achieved the “separate but equal” standard. But the courts consistently ruled in favor of integration, leading to the end of state park segregation by the mid-1960s. Even though it has largely faded from public awareness, the imprint of segregated state park design remains visible throughout the South.

Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape, Lauret Savoy

In this provocative and powerful mosaic of personal journeys and historical inquiry across a continent and time, Savoy explores how the country’s still unfolding history, and ideas of “race,” have marked her and the land. From twisted terrain within the San Andreas Fault zone to a South Carolina plantation, from national parks to burial grounds, from “Indian Territory” and the U.S.-Mexico Border to the U.S. capital, Trace grapples with a searing national history to reveal the often unvoiced presence of the past.

What Can and Can’t Be Said: Race, Uplift, and Monument Building in the Contemporary South, Dell Upton

An original study of monuments to the civil rights movement and African American history that have been erected in the U.S. South over the past three decades, this powerful work explores how commemorative structures have been used to assert the presence of black Americans in contemporary Southern society. The author cogently argues that these public memorials, ranging from the famous to the obscure, have emerged from, and speak directly to, the region’s complex racial politics since monument builders have had to contend with widely varied interpretations of the African American past as well as a continuing presence of white supremacist attitudes and monuments.

Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Mabel O. Wilson

Rising on the National Mall next to the Washington Monument, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a tiered bronze beacon inviting everyone to learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience and how it helped shape this nation. Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture is the story of how this unparalleled museum found its place in the nation’s collective memory and on its public commons. 

Other Resources

Race, Diversity, and Politics in Conversation: Our 21st Century Crisis Talk given by Sanchita Balachandran in the General Session “Confronting the Unexpected” at the 44th American Institute for Conservation (AIC) Annual Meeting, May 16, 2016

Black Lives and the (Broken) Promise of Public Space Project for Public Spaces, July 15, 2016

Obama Should Designate a Monument to Reconstruction The Washington Post, January 8, 2017

Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia