Many public statues are being defaced, toppled or removed this summer, and names taken off buildings, as more of America comes to terms with the ingrained racism in the United States that oppresses African-Americans. Statues of Confederate war heroes or slaveholders are particular targets. But this fight over symbols is not new, nor is it external to Davis; this city has had conflicts over symbols like the statue to Gandhi in Central Park (pictured), and over naming a street for Edward Teller, co-inventor of the hydrogen bomb.
Melissa M. Bender, a senior lecturer at UC Davis, co-edited “Contested Commemoration in U.S. History / Diverging Public Interpretations,” a textbook with 11 essays on topics that go far beyond statues. They vary from movies with an antebellum theme made during Barack Obama’s presidency, to the homes destroyed to create Shenandoah National Park, to the depiction of female U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War, and the fate of a house in Chicago where members of the Black Panthers were killed during gunfire with police in 1969. The subjects today include how to decide what to keep, and why.