A Tale of Two Cities: Comparing Past and Present Monument Debates in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia

Authors: Jonathan Leib*, Old Dominion University
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, American South, Monuments, identity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The late 19th and early 20th centuries marked the peak period of Confederate monument building in the American South. In 1893 and 1907, Confederate monuments were erected in prominent public spaces in the neighboring cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia. In this presentation, I examine, and compare and contrast, past and present debates over the future of these two monuments. Discussions occurred at various times throughout the 20th century concerning proposals, both by whites and African Americans, to move these monuments from their current locations. In recent years, debates over proposals to move these monuments have occurred once again in both cities, with the debates being far more contentious in Portsmouth, where they have centered on and amplified racial tensions among city leaders, than in Norfolk.

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