Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory (Center Books on the American South)

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9781930066717: Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory (Center Books on the American South)

The creation of memorials dedicated to the civil rights movement is a watershed event in the commemoration of southern and American history, an important reversal in the traditional invisibility of African Americans within the preservation movement. Collective memory, to be sure, is certainly about honoring the past--whether it is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace in Atlanta or the memorial to Rosa Parks in Montgomery--but it is also about the ongoing campaign for civil rights and the economic opportunities associated with heritage tourism.

Owen J. Dwyer and Derek H. Alderman use extensive archival research, personal interviews, and compelling photography to examine memorials as cultural landscapes, interpreting them in the context of the movement’s broader history and its current scene. In paying close attention to which stories, people, and places are remembered and which are forgotten, the authors present an unforgettable story.

As Dwyer and Alderman illustrate, there are reasons why memorials are not often located at the traditional core of civic space--City Hall, the Courthouse, or along Main Street--and location seriously affects their public impact. As the authors reveal, social and geographic marginalization has accompanied the creation and promotion of civil rights memorials, calling into question the relative progress that society has made in the time since the civil rights movement in America began.

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About the Author:

Owen J. Dwyer is an associate professor of geography at Indiana University at Indianapolis. Derek H. Alderman is an associate professor of geography at East Carolina University. Their articles and essays on civil rights memorials have appeared in numerous books as well as in Professional Geographer, Social and Cultural Geography, Southeastern Geographer, and Urban Geography.


"The book takes a thoughtful approach to all the questions it examines, including tensions, in the planning of memorials, over whether the work and sacrifice of those who stood with King has been overshadowed by King himself."--Los Angeles Times

"In this concise and cogently written book, Dwyer and Alderman offer a useful introduction to many of the questions central to the study of memorials and historical memory...Civil Rights Memorials also offers fascinating portraits of the many interests at stake in building memorials, from white politicians and businessmen who believe a new civil rights museum will remake their city’s image and bring in tourist dollars, to long-committed black activists, or “memorial entrepreneurs,” who desperately want to keep the past alive in order to offer lessons for today...The authors offer an engaging introduction to the field of memorial studies, and it would make an excellent teaching text." --Alabama Review

"Recommended for historians of the South interested in collective memory" --Journal of Southern History

"This book explores the social, economic, and political factors that shed light on the spatial distribution of the monuments associated with the Civil Rights Movement, as well as their designs and meanings in the landscape. The authors argue that these memorials reflect a major shift in the symbolic landscapes of the U.S. because they successfully challenge the previously dominant ‘white’ inscription of history. The authors also note that many conflicts of meaning and memory remain unresolved. This is a very strong work that is well-organized and readable."--Kenneth E. Foote, author of Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy

"This is an important book that provides a significant and original contribution to the literature on the American landscape and the geography of American memory in particular. The book draws attention to a variety of commemorative features and locates their meaning in the social and political contexts of their creation. In addition, the book offers important insights about the evolution and design of the Civil Rights legacy and African-American heritage. Well-written and well-argued, the book is both accessible and compelling."--Maoz Azaryahu, author of Tel Aviv: Mythology of a City

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