“This biography of a Civil War statue, which involves a shift in identity from Union to Confederate in 1896, a lynching in 1902, and a debate over its removal in 2020, explores how religion structures race—and how race structures religion—in Kentucky. ”
This project explores the intersection of Civil War memory, religion, and race. Thirty years after a harrowing war, the dedication of a Confederate statue in Jessamine County, Kentucky, in 1896 marked the triumph of the Lost Cause over emancipationist memory. An 1898 patriotic rally in which a Union veteran and a Confederate veteran climbed the statue to support troops in the Spanish-American War marked the culmination of a national reunion under terms of white supremacy and Jim Crow law. In 1902 the lynching of a black sharecropper enforced those codes. The biography of this Confederate statue is still not over. As Black Lives Matter protesters and counter-protesters clashed at the statue in the summer of 2020 in the wake of the Breonna Taylor killing, black and white ministers began meeting to promote “racial reconciliation,” and a contentious debate began over the possible removal of the statue. Archival research, oral interviews, and ethnographic work will generate new empirical data on the malleability of memory, how religion has structured race, and how race has structured religion. The resulting book, curriculum, and podcast—all driven by a compelling narrative—will bridge gaps between rigorous scholarship, public history, and the Church.