Turley To Speak Tonight At The Hirshhorn Museum On Historical Monuments and The First Amendment

downloadTonight, I will speaking at the Hirshhhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.  as part of  a panel discussing the ongoing controversy over the removal of confederate and other historical monuments across the country.  I have been critical of this movement that has extended not only to Robert E. Lee statues but statues of Christopher Columbus and other historical figures (here  and here and here and here and here).  The event, Monuments and the First Amendment, will be held at:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 • 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Hirshhorn Museum
Independence Avenue Southwest
Washington, DC 20560


National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen will moderate this panel discussion composed of Richard Kurin, distinguished scholar and ambassador-at-large at the Smithsonian and acting director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Thavolia Glymph, professor of history at Duke University, and Kate Masur, professor of history at Northwestern University, and Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University Law School.

It is a terrific panel and the event is open to the public. You can register here.

50 thoughts on “Turley To Speak Tonight At The Hirshhorn Museum On Historical Monuments and The First Amendment”

  1. There is an argument that export duties imposed by the feds were sufficiently onerous that the plantation owners started the succession. That is because the proceeds were all used for developments in the north.

    I have read this argument but am not well read in historical economics. But it makes more sense than anti/pro slavery being the ultimate cause.

    You’all have at it.

    1. As for statues, I would prefer there to be more of Marcus Whitman, etc., and fewer of warriors.

      1. David,..
        – You may not have heard of the damage to the portrait of Narcissa Whitman at Whitman College.
        A note was attached to the effect that the Whitmans were “racist and colonialists”.
        The “Whitman Missionary” name/ mascot for their athletic teams was changed last year.
        They are now the “Whitman Blues”, as the old missionary name was thought to be “imperialistic and non-inclusive”.
        There have also been some objections to the off-campus statue of Marcus Whitman on Main St. in Walla Walla.
        I think the statue has also been vandalized.
        I don’t know is there is a statue or portrait of anyone that would not offend someone.

      2. Actually I meant Walt Whitman along with Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville and even Mr. Thoreau.

  2. Today, most of us admire our low-level U.S. troops that do the heavy lifting by risking life, limb and time with their families to serve our nation – even in wars and actions they may disagree with. Few Americans admire the military leaders and politicians that take them to war, many times without just cause. Those same leaders then don’t properly take care of our brave veterans sufficiently when they return home. Americans would prefer a monument to Seal Team VI over Dick Cheney – the Civil War was no different.

    Most Americans in 2018 would likely want a monument to the lowly infantry soldier or recon soldier – not a general or politician. This is the root of the problem of the Civil War monuments debate not many understand.

    In states like Virginia, there are citizens whose “ancestors” fought in a war that their ancestors never really supported. Those ancestors never owned slaves and may have opposed slavery. Today you can literally have white citizens in these states that are not racist in any way. Some white southerners even belong to the NAACP although their ancestors fought for the South. Some are even married to African-Americans although their ancestors fought for the South. Some support Jewish causes even though their ancestors fought for the South. An able-bodied male would likely have been executed if he refused to join the fight and not protect their home during the Civil War.

    Most southerners could probably care less about any statue to any general or politician, but they want to honor the service of their great-great grandfather forced to fight in that war as a private in the infantry. Insulting their family member is usually a counter-productive exercise.

    African-Americans and other groups also pay taxes to the same government that excludes their ancestors from recognition. Their own taxes glamorize leaders that harmed, tortured and killed their ancestors – they have every right to complain. Insulting their family members is counter-productive as well.

    This is the twisted but solvable mess we have to untangle – respecting everyone’s heritage is the best solution. African-Americans, by far, lost the most in these states so they should have more seats at the table to view their issues than any other group.

    1. Many people care more about helping other people than killing them. We need statues showing nurses caring for the elderly; teachers in a classroom; scientists developing new technologies. Everyone knows that men kill other men. There’s no justification for glorifying that behavior.

    2. I’ve even heard that some southerners can even read! What an offensive generalization diatribe you have written about a group you apparently do not belong too.

      Confederate statues should remind us that there was once a group of people who stood for states rights and the constitution.

    1. Misplaced somehow, meant to address one of sqeeKKKy’s comments though it is universal for much of her thoughts.

  3. Won’t be much of a speech if Turley doesn’t mention that a few prominent people that were publically calling for removal of Confederate statutes were secretly meeting with Louis Farrakhan and the President of Iran.
    Context matters.

  4. Sooo, here is what I want to know. The media spin is, that anybody who objects to tearing down Confederate statues is a White Supremacist, or White Nationalist, or just plain old racist. Because the Confederate States had slavery.

    What happens when that same argument is advanced against people who want to protect statues and memorials to Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, etc.? And maybe even Lincoln, who didn’t like slavery but was willing to tolerate it. What happens when those people get called those same names. Because it is coming.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. re: Squeeky Fromm, Girl Reporter

      Everyone may want to keep an eye on the City of Richmond, Virginia. Richmond’s mayor created a really diverse and well-rounded commission that is considering every viewpoint. The newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch has also brought up great points by all sides.

      Richmond was the former Capital of the Confederacy but also the “Loving v. Virginia” U.S. Supreme Court case – that legalized inter-racial marriage and even used for LGBT marriage today. Richmond also had the first elected African-American mayor, Douglas Wilder.

      Some ideas mentioned was to make a “Loving v. Virginia” monument as the center-piece of Monument Avenue showing modern Richmond overcame racism. Monument Avenue is a huge tourist attractiin and lined primarily with Confederate officers but did add tennis player, Arthur Ashe, a few years ago. Another idea was to only keep monuments of those born in Virginia – so you keep some mouments while removing monuments honoring out-of-state people. Maybe adding other eras of history. Richmond also has a very diverse population from Jewish leaders, Muslim leaders, Indian leaders, Greek leaders, Irish leaders, etc that could also be represented.

      This commission seems to add much weight to “empathy” (not sympathy) of each group – whether your ancestor was African-American or a former soldier. Results should be coming soon.

      1. I’ve pointed this out year’s ago. What’s your point, tit-for-tat?

        Arthur Ashe is a personal hero of mine, and a great role model. He had a simple and effective way of dealing with people who didn’t agree with him–talk to them. That simple.

        Why Arthur Ashe is not singled out as a great American role model (especially for people of color), who was intelligent and eschewed violence (hmmmmmm….), is beyond me. Of course, he was big on personal responsibility, so there is that.

      2. “Richmond also had the first elected African-American mayor, Douglas Wilder.”

        Elected 2008. I’m assuming you mean he was the first elected African-American mayor in Virginia. Certainly Carl Stokes, Mayor of Cleveland (from whence this reply got posted), was the first black mayor of any major American city, elected in 1967, And he was elected by a population of Clevelanders which was, at that time, I believe upwards of 70% white (and not a large percentage of blacks bothered to vote). We don’t get enough credit for that here in Cleveland. This town has always been years ahead of any other place I’ve ever been in the US regarding race relations.

        Sorry, but I felt compelled to mention all of that.

        1. Oops…Wilder was the first elected African-American governor in the United States.

  5. I’d kind of like to make the trip down for this. See how my day pans out. I’d just like to see if it can stay a civil discussion at this point.

  6. Prof. Turley — to that point, please comment on this attempt to erase “offensive” literature in our schools. I would really like to hear your thoughts. Although I grew up in the South and saw firsthand the scourge of segregation, it was “To Kill a Mockingbird” that was my first lesson in how bad the racial injustice was in the country during my youth. I stress, “during my youth.” (60s).


  7. It’s a two-way street. If you want someone to respect your heritage, then you also have to respect other people’s heritage as well by telling the whole-truth instead fundinga one-sided history.

    What the Charlottesville, Virginia tragedy missed was that African-American mistress to Thomas Jefferson – Sally Hemings – not only has no monument in that Charlottesville public park but her gravesite was paved over for a parking lot. Maybe honoring the heritage of her family would help mend fences. If someone proposed to put a parking lot on top of your ancestor’s gravesite – like Hollywood Cemetary in Richmond -white people would be rioting in the streets.

    Down the road from Charlottesville in Richmond – there was an initiative to build a baseball stadium with an attached “Slavery Museum” – as a compromise for building a sports stadium over the hallowed ground of America’s slave industry. Those same people complaining about removing monuments to their family’s heritage reneged on the deal of honoring African-American heritage.

    It’s not that complicated – if you want your heritage respected, respect other people’s heritage with equal funding and equal support.

      1. Which is why ultimately, the liberal message will always win over the conservative message. Preaching discrimination and judgement and the responsibilities that go along with them is much harder.

  8. History is constantly being rewritten to suit various arguments. History is being rewritten in Washington before it even happens. The Nazi argument is resurfacing under the banner of freedom of speech and the segregation/racist argument pops its head out here in America and abroad. If history is scrubbed of its literature, statues, and other reminders, then history will be interpreted from any particular moment of perspective. When a racist argument reemerges it typically comes attached to a perversely designed iteration of history, accommodating said argument.

    The best approach is to attach the truth regarding slavery, segregation, oppression, racism, and bigotry to every noticeable reminder of our collective shame. Next to a statue of General Lee or any other ‘hero’ who fought to uphold slavery, there should be a statement, forged in the same timeless material, of why he got to ride that horse. Students should read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ in its unabridged form and with a preface explaining how easily derogatory terms can become everyday utterances. In order to review the past, the past must be placed in context. A statue of a racist general in a park in Alabama must be in the context of today, why all those people died and continue to suffer. You cannot get rid of racism by erasing it. The closet racists that argue that the Blacks have had enough time and are doing it to themselves, that because of their standing in education, statistics of unwed mothers, negligent fathers, welfare dependency, need to be reminded of the entire picture. A closet racist must be presented with the past in context, not a glorious statue with the whole truth patinated by selective perspectives. The fuel that feeds the angst and hatred that is sometimes expressed through racism is this mindless attempt to erase the past instead of presenting it in its entirety.

    1. Pointing out another set of possible causes for a particular groups issues does not make one a closet racist. It just might be that your closet racist is right and speaking the truth you are unwilling to hear and in the end your closet racist is part of the solution while you just keep perpetuating the problem making you the real racist.

      1. slohrss29

        The extreme left wing nuts that are attempting to limit free speech, the religious fanatics that are attempting to limit scientific knowledge, the ignorant ‘representatives’ that are dumber than dirt and refute established scientific fact, the politicians that encourage their dupes to toss out dissenters, the politicians that lie continuously about the past, etc.

        This sort of fanaticism is found on the right as well as the left. The question to be asked is who would vote against putting a plaque on the base of a statue of Lee that explains clearly that Lee was fighting, taking part in one of the most vile chapters of American History, so that rich white folk could keep their wealth and slaves? We don’t often look at the two extremes at the same time.

        1. isaac, why would you put a plaque on that reads what he wasn’t fighting for? Slavery is not the reason for the war.

            1. Yes, that is what we were taught in public schools. Much like how we were taught that the 3/5 compromise was a racist action the south wanted (ask yourself, who had more to gain be blacks not being represented). But the truth is the war was more about states rights and secession.

                1. Nope, raised in the northeast my whole life and believed the south was the bad guy for most of it until I finally looked beyond what the govt. monopoly schools told us. It’s all there for you to see if you are willing to be critical instead of resorting to mane calling.

                  1. I was raised all over the place, but was born in Texas, and live now in Louisiana. My take on it, the South screwed up trying to save money on cheap labor. And get political power with them counting as 3/5 of a person. Now, the descendants of that “cheap labor” are why we can’t have nice things down here. It doesn’t have to be that way, but a 77% illegitimate birth rate guarantees that for the foreseeable future.

                    The lesson is, don’t repeat the cheap labor thing, or who knows the effect on future generations, yet the Blue State Liberals are importing Mexican peons hand over for the same reason as the Southern slaveholders. Hilarious in a way to watch them diss the Confederates, when they are now willing to defy the Feds to protect their cheap labor and political power base!

                    Squeeky Fromm
                    Girl Reporter

          1. Jim22

            What group of Neo ‘The South Will Rise Again’ ilk do you belong to? The South fought for their raights to have a way of life decided by them without interference by the North. That way of life was primarily dependent on slave labor. Or, for the rich who could read, organize, manufacture, trade, etc.

            When a war starts, you don’t get the chance to decide whether it’s just or not, whether or not the argument is true or false, what it all means, etc. You have to go.

            It is not only the victors that write history but the losers that refuse to admit defeat, regardless of how vile their argument was.

            Don’t confuse momentum with initial exertion. If there was no slavery in the South, there would have been no Civil War. To believe otherwise is as good an example of why history in its entirety must be presented to each generation. For every statue of a Confederate ‘hero’ that is removed, for every ‘N’ word deleted from literature, some heads penetrate further and further up where the sun don’t shine. You are a perfect example of why plaques, iterating the full facts, must be attached to historical monuments, etc.

            1. Raised in NY so I could care less about the south rising again. Every time I see a confederate flag here I think the person is an idiot. I like to think that had I lived back then, I would have fought for the union not breaking up. Do you honestly really think that if slave labor was the only issue, that they would have gone to war? The north needed that labor which created taxes. Come on isaac, you know it wasn’t about slavery. But then it doesn’t fit the narrative or the guilt.

    2. “The closet racists that argue that the Blacks have had enough time and are doing it to themselves, that because of their standing in education, statistics of unwed mothers, negligent fathers, welfare dependency,. . .”

      And you DON’T think they are doing it to themselves, and you DON’T think they have had enough time to get their crap in one sock? You idiot, it isn’t like blacks had to start at 100% illegitimacy and try to work their way down from there. No, you moron, blacks were doing pretty good until dumba$$ and predatory white Democrats started paying them to have illegitimate kids under the guise of The Great Society. All you have to do, Mr. Poop For Brains, is look at the darn chart:


      But, I guess it is easier on your conscience to call other people closet racists than it is to call yourself a closet enabler, or a closet racial predator who does not care how much damage you do to blacks as long as you can buy their vote.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

      1. Squeek,
        This kind of reminds me of the whole aids issue. I can remember in the 80’s how the group getting the bulk of the virus refused to accept it was their lifestyle and they were not going to change and you were labeled a hater is you challenged that. So eventually you pollute enough of society and it becomes all of our problem instead of just that groups.

        1. True. Homosexuals don’t want to face up to the fact that it is their own desire to have a “quality” org*sm that kills other gays. The refusal to wear a condom while sodomizing someone. I find gay and bisexual men to be a horrible, murderous group, worse by far than the Nazis, who were content to kill maybe 15,000 homos in toto. Not our American Gays though! Hundreds of thousands of deaths are not enough for that bloodthirsty predatory lot.

          Squeeky Fromm
          Girl Reporter

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