Where is the National Slavery Memorial?
Here’s a challenging two part trivia question for this Juneteenth:
1. Where is the National Slavery Memorial?
2. Who designed it?
Seriously. The fact that there is no memorial to the four million human victims of American slavery is a disgrace. But what is even more troubling, to me at least, is that it’s not even a matter of controversy. Nobody seems to have noticed that we have failed utterly as a people to make even the most perfunctory gesture of atonement for one of the most monstrous crimes ever perpetrated by human beings against other human beings.
In Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac River from the grand memorial dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator, there stands a Confederate War Memorial honoring those who sacrificed their lives — gave their last full measure of devotion — to preserve the institution of slavery.
We’ve just passed through a season of intense controversy about whether to remove several Confederate monuments, dedicated to men who were not only slave owners, but who committed treason against the United States and founded a new nation dedicated to the proposition that white men were created superior to black men and were thus entitled to own them and deprive them of any and all civil or even human rights. The monuments of New Orleans were finally removed, but what controversy attended those removals!
If you’ve every wondered why, in 2017, we still have need of a robust Black Lives Matter movement, then consider the fact that the United States of America has never seen fit to memorialize the four million human beings who were held in bondage on our shores. We the people don’t even appear to have given the matter any thought at all. That’s how little black lives actually matter in America.
Why don’t we have a national slavery memorial?
Should we have a national slavery memorial?
A society that can’t answer these question has a problem. And a society that isn’t even asking itself these questions has a bigger problem.
I’ve been obsessed with this problem for about six years, ever since I realized that I wasn’t aware of any official slavery memorial (there are a number unofficial, privately funded memorials here and there around the country). I have much more to say about this, and hopefully will soon complete an essay on the subject that I’ve been working on for about five years.
But for now, I just want to point out that the landscape of official America continues to be fouled by an obscene, unconscionable void.