Chicagoans deserve to know why monuments are being questioned

The Monuments Project says its intention is not to remove the monuments. Then what exactly do they intend to do with those that come under criticism?

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Standing Lincoln monument.

It will be difficult to reconsider the appropriateness of 41 Chicago monuments, but the process is harder because the committee hasn’t described it concerns about them, the authors write.

Sun-Times archive.

As the co-chairs of the Chicago Monument Project Advisory Committee recently wrote, it will be a difficult process for Chicagoans to reconsider the appropriateness of 41 monuments.

But what makes that process even harder is that the committee has not publicly described its specific concerns about each of these monuments.

There’s the 1887 “Standing Lincoln,” a portrayal of the rumpled, reflective president who signed the proclamation freeing African Americans from slavery. It’s widely considered an artistic masterpiece.

Also on the list is the 1891 statue of Ulysses S. Grant, showing the taciturn Illinoisan who served as commanding general in the war to free the enslaved people and who as president battled to ensure African Americans had the right to vote and serve in public office.

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Then there’s the 1895 statute of Benjamin Franklin, often regarded as the most politically progressive of the nation’s founders, who freed his two African American slaves and became an outspoken abolitionist.

The co-chairs wrote that the purpose of this project is not to remove the monuments. Then what exactly do they intend to do with those that come under criticism? Who will make the final decisions, and what criteria will be used? Will there be an appeal mechanism?

No specific criticisms have been filed against most of these 41 monuments, making it a mystery as to why they’re on the list.

The co-chairs briefly mentioned Lincoln’s and Grant’s role in “Indian removal.” But as they acknowledged, history is complicated. The committee includes historians, who should be able to tell us what specific events qualify these figures for reconsideration.

The co-chairs ask the public to “bring their different experiences and perspectives to the conversation.” But it’s crucial to have a solid factual basis for action.

If city officials want to remove monuments of some of the nation’s greatest leaders, they should tell us exactly why. Then we can talk about it.

Harris Meyer, Uptown

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