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Monumental

Author: Monumental

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The landscape of public memory is shifting. As we re-examine the plaques in our parks and sculptures on our streets, we grapple with what to do with them. Once we learn the stories these objects tell about who we are, will tearing down statues and renaming schools be enough?Monumental interrogates the state of monuments across the country and what their future says about our own. In this 10-episode series, host and author Ashley C Ford and a team of audio journalists from around the country will piece together the complex stories behind some of the thousands of monuments that exist in every corner of the U.S. Listen to Monumental weekly on Mondays beginning October 30, 2023.For more information about Monumental, visit our website at www.prx.org/monumental
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2023-09-2800:06

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The landscape of public memory is shifting. As we re-examine the plaques in our parks and sculptures on our streets, we grapple with what to do with them. Once we learn the stories these objects tell about who we are, will tearing down statues and renaming schools be enough? Monumental interrogates the state of monuments across the country and what their future says about our own. In this 10-episode series, host, journalist and author Ashley C. Ford and a team of independent producers from around the country will piece together the complex stories behind some of the thousands of monuments that exist in every corner of the U.S. Listen to Monumental weekly on Mondays beginning October 30, 2023. Monumental is produced by PRX Productions, PRX’s award-winning creative studio specializing in audio storytelling. For more about the host and the team behind Monumental, visit our website. The series is generously supported by the Mellon Foundation.
Monuments are not immovable. What we commemorate, what we lift up, what story we tell as a nation has always been changing. How and why do monuments evolve and why are we tackling this now? We'll ask the difficult questions about the meaning they hold in our public spaces and our culture. We'll situate this series in the current movement to remove historically inaccurate or oppressive monuments and look at how we memorialize today, from the collective outrage symbolized by George Floyd Square to the meditative urban waterfalls of the 9/11 Memorial. We’ll see how artistic responses to the “Emancipation Group”, the memorial depicting Lincoln freeing an enslaved man, can help us find new approaches to commemoration. And we'll introduce the National Monument Audit and the narratives we must challenge to move the monument conversation forward. Monumental is produced by PRX Productions, PRX’s award-winning creative studio specializing in audio storytelling. For more about the host and the team behind Monumental, visit our website. This series is generously supported by the Mellon Foundation.
The Cult of Columbus

The Cult of Columbus

2023-11-0641:11

For generations, Christopher Columbus has been glorified in monument after monument across the United States. And while Columbus statues have recently started coming down, including in cities like Columbus, Ohio, the largest one in the world is standing tall - very, very tall… in a U.S. territory – the beach town of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. In this episode, reporter and journalism professor Gisele Regatão travels to Puerto Rico and beyond to uncover the roots of Columbus’ glorification in U.S. history and why he came to be represented in so many public statues – even though he never actually set foot on the U.S. mainland. And she visits a community artist in Woodside, Queens who confronts the myth of Columbus by creating new monuments that celebrate immigrant stories.
An obelisk called The Soldiers' Monument in downtown Santa Fe was erected after the Civil War to honor soldiers from Northern New Mexico who died fighting the Confederacy. But the monument also honors Union soldiers who fought “savage Indians,” – their scorched earth methods resulted in the systematic rape, enslavement, and forced relocation of thousands of Navajo and Apache people. For decades, Indigenous activists had called for the obelisk to come down. In 2020 protestors tore it down, leaving only the monument's base. The backlash to its removal stoked resentment and misinformation from some Hispanic residents who blamed “wokeness” and liberal outsiders for erasing their heritage. Conflicts over the obelisk appear to be a culmination of longstanding tensions between the city’s Hispanic and Indigenous communities. But we uncover their roots in Santa Fe’s 400-year-old identity crisis - an identity built on colonialism, slavery, and mythology. Producer Ben Montoya looks at the city's choice now: to rebuild the past or pave a new future. For more resources related to this episode, visit the episode page on www.prx.org/monumental Additional audio was recorded with help from Ryan Thompson and Georgina Hahn. This episode was produced on the ancestral lands of the Tewa and Kumeyaay people. Special thanks to Dani Prokop, Arte Romero y Carver, Luis Peña, Gerard Martinez y Valencia, Rob Martinez, Autumn Gomez, Christina Castro, DezBaa, David Henderson, Alicia Guzman, Valerie Rangel, Estevan Rael-Galvez, Alma Castro, and Tod Seelie.
Sometimes it’s hard to know which came first – monuments or the stories we tell about who and what is heroic. And for the powerful people who get to choose, it’s usually people who look like them. But what if the hero or the subject of a monument isn’t an individual but a group or a community? What does that kind of monument look like and how might it change how we see ourselves? In this episode, we look at how a new monument in Boston is honoring not just one momentous occasion or one notable person, but the wider legacy of the Chinese-American community and the generations of immigrant labor that helped build this country.
Whispers in Wilmington

Whispers in Wilmington

2023-11-2751:31

We’re used to recognizing someone powerful with a statue. But what happens when there’s no statue or memorial to a traumatic event? Whoever lives with the impact of that painful history has to confront the kind of power it takes to keep it hidden for so long. In this episode, we uncover the story of the only successful coup d’etat ever to happen on American soil. This act of racial violence was designed to eliminate all memory of a highly successful Black community in Wilmington, North Carolina back in 1898. That suppression involved racist mobs, as well as historians, city planners, journalists and countless others. They conspired for decades to make a Black community’s onetime prosperity and strength unimaginable. Almost unimaginable.
When it comes to women and monuments in the U.S., we seem to prefer mythical or allegorical women – think a lady in robes holding the scales of justice in front of a courthouse. It’s rare to see real women being honored for their actual accomplishments. But for decades, there was one statue in Wyoming that was an exception. Wyoming is known as the “equality state” because it was the first in the nation to pass women’s suffrage. And it recognized that history with a statue of Wyoming’s first Justice of the Peace and suffragist, Esther Hobart Morris, which stood outside the state Capitol building for 60 years. But today, that statue of Morris lives underground in the Capitol basement. In this episode, we look at what the story of this one monument reveals about how women are mythologized and erased.
The legacy of slavery in this country is undeniable. And yet we’re a long way from acknowledging how fundamental it is to how America came to be, and how it should be discussed and represented. Those tensions are playing out in our monuments - including in places we don’t often associate with slavery, like New York City. On Wall Street sits Federal Hall, a place dedicated to many firsts: the First Amendment, the first Capitol building and the first U.S. president. Less than a mile away is the African Burial Ground, dedicated to the 419 enslaved Africans buried there. Considered together, these two National Park Service sites illuminate how we talk about the birth of the United States, and the enslaved people who made this new country possible. For more on the show, visit prx.org/monumental.
Pearl Harbor National Monument is the most visited place in Hawaii, and it’s one of two national sites recognizing a foreign assault on U.S. soil. The monument tells the story of the Japanese Empire’s sneak attack on the island of Oahu in 1941 and how the U.S. declared war on Japan and entered World War II the following day. But the U.S. government did something else that’s not often talked about: martial law was immediately declared in Hawaii, followed by the incarceration of men, women and children of Japanese ancestry. Just over ten miles from Pearl Harbor is the Honouliuli National Historic Site. It was Hawaii's largest and longest-serving World War II confinement camp, and it’s now being developed by the National Park Service as a new memorial space that will eventually be open to the public. It’s only when we look at Pearl Harbor and Honouliuli together – and see them as inextricably part of the same story – that we can reconcile who we Americans believe ourselves to be...with who we sometimes actually are.
Stone Mountain Park is Georgia's most popular attraction, and its centerpiece is a massive rock carving that depicts three Confederate leaders who fought a Civil War over the right to own slaves and lost. It’s the largest Confederate monument in the entire world. The mere presence, let alone the popularity of Stone Mountain raises this question: If people can be oblivious or indifferent to something as big as that carving, then what about the rest of the nation that lives not only with monuments but with streets, bridges, buildings and schools named for the Confederacy? Confederate monuments have started coming down, but the struggle around what to do with Stone Mountain speaks to how difficult it can be to truly see and confront the stories being told all around us and tell the ones we need to hear.
Bringing Monuments Home

Bringing Monuments Home

2024-02-2601:00:24

Some monuments are larger than life. And they reinforce this idea that monuments are supposed to inspire awe and maybe even dwarf us. But what if a monument was human-scaled and made us aware of our bodies in space? We don’t often think about the design choices that go into making a monument, but more and more, a new generation of artists and designers are reimagining what a monument can look and feel like, and the kinds of stories they can hold. In this episode, we travel to Montgomery, Alabama to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, to uncover how they took inspiration from Holocaust memorials in Germany to memorialize the horrific legacy of lynching in this country. And we look at decentralized memorials that are using technology to help bring monuments to the past into the future.
If you enjoyed our Monumental episode about Esther Hobart Morris, the first woman justice of the peace, here’s another podcast that might be right up your alley. It's about South Pass in central Wyoming where Esther served as judge. The area has endured five booms and busts since Esther lived there in the late 1800s. And now, a new boom has come along...thanks to the popularity of some hiking and biking trails that pass through there.Hosted and produced by Melodie Edwards, Modern West is a podcast that is documenting the evolving identity of the American West. Here's an episode called The Sixth Boom from the show's second season.For more on the show visit themodernwest.org.
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