6 essential memorials that tell America’s story
We asked historians to nominate one key monument for Americans to visit. Here are their responses.

MONUMENTS ARE UNDER scrutiny throughout the United States.

Dozens of contentious statues—including those depicting Christopher Columbus, founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and Confederate soldiers—have been removed by local governments or torn down by protesters since George Floyd’s death in May sparked a national reckoning on race.

Although calls for change were sounded long before this moment, the current movement has led to honest conversations about how the history of colonialization, slavery, and white supremacy is taught and viewed, especially through statues and memorials.

Despite the controversy and the ongoing pandemic, many travelers are still making monuments part of their travel plans. According to a June 2020 survey conducted by tourism consultancy Longwoods International, 34 percent of Americans indicated they planned to visit either a monument or state or national park this summer.

Paul Farber, co-founder of Philadelphia’s Monument Lab, which pushes for more inclusive histories and engagement of public space, says we have a responsibility to, if not take statues down, at least offer fuller narratives that better reflect accurate history.

“What we’re seeing now is a reminder that monuments don’t just serve the project of remembrance, they reinforce power and possibility in the present,” says Farber. “No monument is permanent in and of itself; it requires maintenance and mindsets to keep it up.”

While travelers can’t change the past, they can alter how they view and talk about history, and be part of the conversation of who should get placed on the pedestals.

Here are six memorials recommended by historians that are well worth visiting. 

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