Chicago considers removing 41 statues — including 4 presidents — as part of 'racial healing and historical reckoning project'

Chicago is set to consider removing as many as 41 prominent public monuments currently on display in the city, according to a list compiled by Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot's administration and published online this week.

The monument cleanse is part of a "racial healing and historical reckoning project" kicked off by the mayor's office last summer, in response to a groundswell of Black Lives Matter protests that rocked the city.

According to its website, the Chicago Monuments Project was initiated to "grapple with" and to "address the hard truths of Chicago's racial history."

Included on the list of controversial monuments are those of four U.S. presidents — George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, and William McKinley — and other influential historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Christopher Columbus, and Leif Ericson.

As a part of the project, an advisory board was tasked with reviewing more than 500 monuments and statues in order to determine which among them were not representative of the city's values and thus potentially warranted further action. The 41 eventually identified were selected for the following reasons, the website stated:

  • Promoting narratives of white supremacy
  • Presenting inaccurate and/or demeaning characterizations of American Indians
  • Memorializing individuals with connections to racist acts, slavery, and genocide
  • Presenting selective, over-simplified, one-sided views of history
  • Not sufficiently including other stories, in particular those of women, people of color, and themes of labor, migration, and community building
  • Creating tension between people who see value in these artworks and those who do not
The mayor's office noted in a press release that now that certain monuments have been identified, the "public engagement phase" of the project will begin. Chicago residents are encouraged to submit feedback and participate in discussions about the monuments on the project's website until the phase is concluded in April.
"This project is a powerful opportunity for us to come together as a city to assess the many monuments and memorials across our neighborhoods and communities — to face our history and what and how we memorialize that history," the mayor said. "Given the past year and in particular the past summer that made clear history isn't past, it is essential that residents are a part of this conversation. This project is about more than a single statue or mural, it's about channeling our city's dynamic civic energy to permanently memorialize our shared values, history and heritage as Chicagoans in an open and democratic way."
Last summer, after rioters protested around and defaced a statue of Columbus in Chicago's Grant Park, Lightfoot had the statue removed in the dead of night. It was a complete about-face by the mayor, as only weeks before she had suggested it not be torn down.

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