Not Our Monument Project
In 1987, Roanoke College purchased the Old Roanoke County Courthouse and converted it into West Hall. The property transfer included an important caveat: the plot of land containing Roanoke County’s 1910 Confederate Monument was not part of the purchase agreement. Since 1987, Roanoke County has continued to own the deed to this small, but deeply significant space. The land, and the 28 feet of granite that form the Confederate monument, remain under the control of Roanoke County.
Yet, for anyone who visits or attends Roanoke College, the monument is an unavoidable landmark. It casts a long shadow – physically and figuratively – on our community. By default, we are responsible for telling the monument’s history.
Our college is dedicated to thinking about its own history of race. We are finding outlets to tell less understood parts of our story. We want to know the role that enslaved people played in constructing the college; we want to understand our complicity in the Confederate cause; we want to realize that our college grew alongside a tacit acceptance of segregation; and we want to address our continuing struggles to meet our stated goals for a more diverse campus community.
Roanoke County may decide to keep the Confederate monument in place, and in so doing they would remain in compliance with the state laws of Virginia. But the Roanoke College community, the community that lives and has lived alongside the monument on a daily basis, can do its part to consider our relationship with the Confederate monument.
To move forward with this process, the Center for Studying Structures of Race is sponsoring the Not Our Monument Project. We are creating a space for current students, faculty, and staff to react and respond to the presence of the Confederate monument on our campus. We will use text and images from this feedback to create new exhibits, monuments, and memorials that contextualize the Confederate monument.
Monuments are not passive objects, nor is the meaning of any monument set in stone. Meaning and symbolism change over time, and as a community, we need to have a dialogue about the meaning of the Confederate monument on our campus.
What does the Confederate monument mean to you? What did you think when you first saw it? How does its presence on our campus make you feel? What story about our past does the monument tell? What does this monument say about Roanoke College?
Please use this link to upload your reactions (comments, essays, videos, art projects, etc.) to the monument: