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Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America

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Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America Cover

ISBN13: 9780691009476
ISBN10: 0691009473
Condition:
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The United States of America originated as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves explores how that history of slavery and its violent end was told in public space--specifically in the sculptural monuments that increasingly came to dominate streets, parks, and town squares in nineteenth-century America. Here Kirk Savage shows how the greatest era of monument building in American history arose amidst struggles over race, gender, and collective memory. As men and women North and South fought to define the war's legacy in monumental art, they reshaped the cultural landscape of American nationalism.

At the same time that the Civil War challenged the nation to reexamine the meaning of freedom, Americans began to erect public monuments as never before. Savage studies this extraordinary moment in American history when a new interracial order seemed to be on the horizon, and when public sculptors tried to bring that new order into concrete form. Looking at monuments built and unbuilt, Savage shows how an old image of black slavery was perpetuated while a new image of the common white soldier was launched in public space. Faced with the challenge of Reconstruction, the nation ultimately recast itself in the mold of the ordinary white man.

Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves, the first sustained investigation of monument building as a process of national and racial definition, probes a host of fascinating questions: How was slavery to be explained without exploding the myth of a "united" people? How did notions of heroism become racialized? And more generally, who is represented in and by monumental space? How are particular visions of history constructed by public monuments? Written in an engaging fashion, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in American culture, race relations, and public art.

Synopsis:

"Kirk Savage joins the growing literature on the politics of public memory and commemoration with the rich scholarship on race and nationhood. His book is a finely conceptualized, beautifully argued study of the challenges of representing the new postwar relationship of black to white."--Angela Miller, Washington University

"In my town there are equestrian statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (Nat Turner has not yet found his monument, to say nothing of Sojourner Truth). In nearby Richmond, a twenty-four-foot statue of Arthur Ashe is dwarfed by sixty-foot statues of Lee and other Confederate heroes. Kirk Savage's Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves eloquently and authoritatively exposes the way racial dominance has been literally built into the public space that surrounds us--space in which it is, for this reason, increasingly difficult to live."--Eric Lott, University of Virginia, author of Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class

"In a fascinating study of public space and the less-than-public contradictions of nineteenth-century culture, Kirk Savage sheds light not only on memory and monument, but also on the invention of the `popular' itself."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"A finely conceptualized, beautifully argued study of the challenges of representing the new postwar relationship of black to white."--Angela Miller, Washington University

Synopsis:

The United States of America originated as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves explores how that history of slavery and its violent end was told in public space--specifically in the sculptural monuments that increasingly came to dominate streets, parks, and town squares in nineteenth-century America. Here Kirk Savage shows how the greatest era of monument building in American history arose amidst struggles over race, gender, and collective memory. As men and women North and South fought to define the war's legacy in monumental art, they reshaped the cultural landscape of American nationalism.

At the same time that the Civil War challenged the nation to reexamine the meaning of freedom, Americans began to erect public monuments as never before. Savage studies this extraordinary moment in American history when a new interracial order seemed to be on the horizon, and when public sculptors tried to bring that new order into concrete form. Looking at monuments built and unbuilt, Savage shows how an old image of black slavery was perpetuated while a new image of the common white soldier was launched in public space. Faced with the challenge of Reconstruction, the nation ultimately recast itself in the mold of the ordinary white man.

Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves, the first sustained investigation of monument building as a process of national and racial definition, probes a host of fascinating questions: How was slavery to be explained without exploding the myth of a "united" people? How did notions of heroism become racialized? And more generally, who is represented in and by monumental space? How are particular visions of history constructed by public monuments? Written in an engaging fashion, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in American culture, race relations, and public art.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Ch. 1Introduction3
Ch. 2Exposing Slavery21
Ch. 3Imagining Emancipation52
Ch. 4Freedom's Memorial89
Ch. 5Slavery's Memorial129
Ch. 6Common Soldiers162
Ch. 7Epilogue209
Notes215
Index259

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Ashley Bowen, September 30, 2011 (view all comments by Ashley Bowen)
"Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves," by art and architecture historian Kirk Savage, presents a nuanced critique of post-Civil War memorial sculpture that emphasizes gender, race, and a rapidly shifting sense of nationalism. Savage argues that the ambiguous nature of the United States’ national identity after the Civil War is the defining factor in late 19th century memorial design. By examining the process of designing and building monuments to emancipation, Lincoln, the common soldier, and Lee, Savage demonstrates that this uncertainty about the new American identity influenced a variety of distinct memorial projects. Savage is, without a doubt, a “new art historian.” He spends as much time on formal analysis as on the history and social context of the era. The source material used in Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves includes the correspondence of planning committees, artist plans that were never executed, and more traditional art history sources. One of Savage’s techniques is comparing a critical reading with the opinions of contemporary critics. This effectively underscores just how unfathomable a black body on a memorial was to 19th century observers. The disconnect between written descriptions of a monument and what he observes in the pieces is striking.

Many scholars of memorials refer to the collective memory as the motivating force behind memorials. Often, there is little discussion of the struggles involved in defining a collective and creating its memory. The collective memory is taken as a given. Savage’s discussion of the “subcollective memory” (125) provides a useful rhetorical device for acknowledging the tension between the “collective memory” of the majority and the kind of vernacular history that is passed down outside the sphere of memorials and public history.

As a reader, I was left wondering what happened to some of these less successful, or outright offensive, monuments. Although it was outside the scope of Savage’s project, learning about how contemporary politics revisit these sites could be an interesting method to explore the ongoing (re)definition of the American national identity. Similarly, some communities found that to express their membership in the new American identity they needed to replace their more artful memorials with the more typical single, standing soldier form (183). A larger discussion about the removal of memorials could add depth to Savage’s observations about the relationship between national identity, race, and sculpture.

Although the book does not discuss monuments built after about 1920, his analysis of the interaction between race and national identity in sculpture remains as relevant to today’s monuments. Were Princeton University Press to publish a new edition, I hope that Savage would add a new introduction or epilogue that extends his arguments forward to the new, and controversial, Dr. King Memorial on the National Mall. The sculpture of Dr. King, in particular, is dramatically different than the pieces that form the bulk of Savage’s analysis. Nevertheless, because the figure of King is not sculpted fully in the round, it suggests incompleteness and the continued applicability of some of Savage’s observations. This may indicate that the bulk of the US collective imagination can embrace Dr. King’s message but that there remains some tension between the goals of the Civil Rights Movement and the ongoing structural racism that plagues the US.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780691009476
Author:
Savage, Kirk
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton
Subject:
History
Subject:
African American Studies - History
Subject:
United States - Civil War
Subject:
Race relations
Subject:
Sculpture
Subject:
Ethnic Studies - African American Studies - Histor
Subject:
United States - 19th Century
Subject:
American history
Subject:
Art and architecture
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
Sculpture & Installation
Subject:
US History-1800 to Civil War
Subject:
Art and Arc
Subject:
hitecture
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
July 1999
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Illustrations:
67 halftones
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 15 oz

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » Sculpture » General
Arts and Entertainment » Art » Sculpture » Technique
Arts and Entertainment » Art » Theory and Criticism
History and Social Science » African American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Military » Civil War » General
History and Social Science » US History » 1800 to Civil War
History and Social Science » World History » General
Science and Mathematics » Chemistry » General

Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$47.50 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691009476 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "Kirk Savage joins the growing literature on the politics of public memory and commemoration with the rich scholarship on race and nationhood. His book is a finely conceptualized, beautifully argued study of the challenges of representing the new postwar relationship of black to white."--Angela Miller, Washington University

"In my town there are equestrian statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (Nat Turner has not yet found his monument, to say nothing of Sojourner Truth). In nearby Richmond, a twenty-four-foot statue of Arthur Ashe is dwarfed by sixty-foot statues of Lee and other Confederate heroes. Kirk Savage's Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves eloquently and authoritatively exposes the way racial dominance has been literally built into the public space that surrounds us--space in which it is, for this reason, increasingly difficult to live."--Eric Lott, University of Virginia, author of Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class

"In a fascinating study of public space and the less-than-public contradictions of nineteenth-century culture, Kirk Savage sheds light not only on memory and monument, but also on the invention of the `popular' itself."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"A finely conceptualized, beautifully argued study of the challenges of representing the new postwar relationship of black to white."--Angela Miller, Washington University

"Synopsis" by , The United States of America originated as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves explores how that history of slavery and its violent end was told in public space--specifically in the sculptural monuments that increasingly came to dominate streets, parks, and town squares in nineteenth-century America. Here Kirk Savage shows how the greatest era of monument building in American history arose amidst struggles over race, gender, and collective memory. As men and women North and South fought to define the war's legacy in monumental art, they reshaped the cultural landscape of American nationalism.

At the same time that the Civil War challenged the nation to reexamine the meaning of freedom, Americans began to erect public monuments as never before. Savage studies this extraordinary moment in American history when a new interracial order seemed to be on the horizon, and when public sculptors tried to bring that new order into concrete form. Looking at monuments built and unbuilt, Savage shows how an old image of black slavery was perpetuated while a new image of the common white soldier was launched in public space. Faced with the challenge of Reconstruction, the nation ultimately recast itself in the mold of the ordinary white man.

Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves, the first sustained investigation of monument building as a process of national and racial definition, probes a host of fascinating questions: How was slavery to be explained without exploding the myth of a "united" people? How did notions of heroism become racialized? And more generally, who is represented in and by monumental space? How are particular visions of history constructed by public monuments? Written in an engaging fashion, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in American culture, race relations, and public art.

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