The “Unmarked and Unremarked” Memories of the National Mall: Resurrection City and the Unreconciled History of the Civil Rights Movement as Radical Place-Making

Authors: Ethan Bottone*, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Derek H. Alderman, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Joshua Inwood, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Historical Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Cultural Geography
Keywords: memory, National Mall, Poor People's Campaign, Resurrection City, civil rights
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Situated within the heart of Washington, D.C., the National Mall interacts with the city and residents daily. Important to analyzing the National Mall as an influential commemorative landscape within this urban landscape is recognizing that it is a product of a selective mixing of remembering and forgetting. While the Mall certainly gives visibility and authority to certain American collective memories, it also facilitates an amnesia about other chapters in the nation’s history. Reflecting upon these “unmarked and unremarked” memories uncovers the social tensions underlying the politics of remembering and forgetting as well as the active role that the urban memorial landscape plays in opening up, but also shutting down, ways of thinking and talking about the past. The purpose of this work is to explore one of the Mall’s unmarked and unremarked memories, Resurrection City, an assembly of activists who camped on the grounds of the Mall in the summer of 1968. Supported by the Poor People’s Campaign, demonstrators came to D.C. to campaign for full employment and living wages. Utilizing the space of the Mall to contrast the urban socioeconomic situation of the protestors with those holding power in government, Resurrection City was a significant display of the geospatial work and intelligence utilized by the Civil Rights Movement to affect change in America. However, the event and those who participated have gone unmarked within the memorial landscape of the National Mall, due primarily to Resurrection City’s divergence from the normative civil rights discourse that shapes national identity and belonging

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