Look around your community. Who gets put on a pedestal (literally)? What kinds of statues are in your town/city/region? Whose names are on public buildings, such as schools, and who is featured in public art, such as murals?
Have any of these things changed, been renamed, removed in recent years? If so, let’s find out why.
A 2021 report by Monument Lab, an organization advocating for more inclusive history, examined more than 50,000 monuments throughout the United States, and found they were overwhelmingly white and male. There were more mermaids featured than congresswomen, and more people who fought for the Confederacy than abolitionists. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a racial justice and anti-hate organization, maintains a database of schools named after Confederates.
For this assignment, think about how communities decide which historical perspectives and people to honor in statutes, murals/paintings, and public spaces.
Are these symbols important? How do they connect to the present day? Who gets lifted up and who gets left out– and why does that matter?
This project is part of PBS's Iconic America, a documentary series exploring America’s history through iconic national symbols, places, and archetypes.
NOTE: students are encouraged to publish their stories on their school/club/program website or through video/social platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or Twitter and tag Student Reporting Labs. Check with your teacher to find out instructions for class submissions.