In early February 2019, former FBI Director James Comey published an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled “Take down the Confederate statues now.” Comey makes the case that Confederate memorials are not structures that honor the bravery of soldiers of the past, but “tools” consciously used by white Americans to oppress African Americans. While Comey’s stance against the existence of these statues is obvious, his article is but one example of how Americans perceive Confederate memorials and how they mediate their awkward place within society. This thesis examines the rhetorical nature of these monuments in accordance with their historical context, the context of their erection, and how they signify in an attempt to understand how they function in postmodernity and within public memory. In a country whose relationship with race is at the forefront of its identity, the existence of these memorials in concert with monuments to civil rights leaders and victims of lynching creates a tension that demands either a resolution or rationalization by the American public. By conducting a rhetorical analysis of Confederate memorials that is aware of the context surrounding these structures, I attempt to provide an answer to the question of how these memorials signify in the present-day as well as what they are trying to remember. The controversy surrounding the various meanings these statues put forth is testament to the fact that they do not fit cleanly into collective American identity or memory and therefore demand interrogation.
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Swierczewski, Ethan Andrew, "Confederate Continuation: The Visual Rhetoric of Confederate Monuments in Postmodernity" (2020). Honors Theses. 286.
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