CHICAGO (CBS) — As part of a “racial healing and historical reckoning project” that began last summer, a city advisory panel has identified more than 40 Chicago statues and monuments that could be potentially problematic, and is asking for public input to help decide their fates.
Last summer, after the city removed three statues of Christopher Columbus due to at times violent protests, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office announced a commission would review more than 500 public monuments to “provide a vehicle to address the hard truths of Chicago’s racial history, confront the ways in which that history has and has not been memorialized, and develop a framework for marking public space that elevates new ways to memorialize Chicago’s true and complete history.”
On Wednesday, that advisory committee published a list of 41 statues, plaques, and other monuments that are subject to “further review.” Not all of the monuments will be removed. Rather, the city is seeking public input before deciding what to do with each of them.
The monuments include the three Columbus statues; as well as monuments to former Presidents Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and William McKinley; several statues of Native Americans; a monument to fascist Italian politician Italo Balbo; and a monument of the Haymarket Riot.
The committee said the 41 monuments were flagged for public discussion for a variety of issues:
- Promoting narratives of white supremacy
- Presenting inaccurate and/or demeaning characterizations of American Indians
- Memorializing individuals with connections to racist acts, slavery, and genocide
- Presenting selective, over-simplified, one-sided views of history
- Not sufficiently including other stories, in particular those of women, people of color, and themes of labor, migration, and community building
- Creating tension between people who see value in these artworks and those who do not
The city has created a website detailing all 41 monuments, and has included a feedback form for the public to share their thoughts.
“This project is a powerful opportunity for us to come together as a city to assess the many monuments and memorials across our neighborhoods and communities—to face our history and what and how we memorialize that history,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “Given the past year and in particular the past summer that made clear history isn’t past, it is essential that residents are a part of this conversation. This project is about more than a single statue or mural, it’s about channeling our city’s dynamic civic energy to permanently memorialize our shared values, history and heritage as Chicagoans in an open and democratic way.”
As part of the public input process, the Chicago Monuments Project will host a series of webinars and one-hour discussion panels with the advisory committee. The city also wants to team up with community organizations to host public discussions about the monuments.
The project also is asking for ideas from artists and community groups on the development of new monuments that could be erected in the city.
The Chicago Public Schools is working on a separate project to review the district’s collection of artworks and review concerns about specific pieces. CPS created a Works of Art Steering Committee to work with students, teachers, school leaders, and advocacy groups to make recommendations about potentially problematic artwork in schools.