Confederate monuments burst into public consciousness in 2015 when a shooting at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, instigated the first broad calls for their removal. The shooter intended to start a race war and had posed with Confederate imagery in photos posted online.
Monument removal efforts grew in 2017 after a counterprotester was killed at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacist groups defended the preservation of Confederate monuments. Removal movements saw widespread success in 2020 following George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police.
These events linked Confederate monuments to modern racist beliefs and acts. But whether monuments carry inherent racism or are merely misinterpreted requires further exploration.
Research by economist Jhacova A. Williams has shown that Black Americans who live in areas that have a relatively higher number of streets named after prominent Confederate generals “are less likely to be employed, are more likely to be employed in low-status occupations, and have lower wages compared to Whites.”