2020 will be remembered as a year of change. But some historical markers of change, may not survive the year. Lisa Fletcher went to Boston to see how that historic town is dealing with erasing history.
Lisa Fletcher: In one of the nation’s oldest cities, statues and memorials abound. From political leaders to sporting greats, they span Boston’s nearly 400-year history. But visit today and you’ll find something missing, empty space where a towering historic figure once stood.
(video shows the foundation of a statue)
Mike Wenzke: Well, this is Christopher Columbus. Protestors here a few weeks ago took off the head.
Lisa: Mike Wenzke owns and operates the Revolutionary Story Tour, walking visitors through the city’s historic past.
Wenzke: Christopher Columbus, historically, has always been an example of a brave explorer who sort of defied the conventions of his day, explored the unknown, and discovered a new world, making all of this possible.
Lisa: That narrative now being challenged across the nation by many who feel the explorer is actually a symbol of conquest, death, and slavery. Across Boston in Lincoln Square, the nation’s sixteenth president and the emancipation proclamation are memorialized in a statue that shows Lincoln and either a crouching slave or rising man, it depends on who you ask.
Soon this statue will be taken down after a vote by the city’s art commission. For many cities in the South, this has been an even busier statue removing year, as memorials to confederate leaders, political and military, have been coming down. While, in New York, it’s President Teddy Roosevelt on horseback flanked by Native American and African American men that’ll soon be gone.
Back in Boston, America’s first president is also being debated, because George Washington, whilst a revolutionary hero, was also a prominent slave owner. Passers-by have strong opinions.
Mike: I mean, everyone's entitled to their opinion. I still think they should be up because otherwise you're just running from history.
Gamal: I think that's a reckoning with our history that is long overdue. We put up monuments to people who are, for lack of a better term, slavers, and rapists, and genocidal maniacs.
Wenzke: We have the best people watching in the city.
Lisa: And for Mike, the walking tour guide, statues and monuments aren’t nearly as important as the history and facts they point to.
Wenzke: The challenge of history, the beauty of history, the whole art form of history, is how do you interpret those facts; and with a statute, without a statue, I can give people history.