77. Trump Asks, Who's Next? Lyra Monteiro Answers, Washingtons Next!
Welcome to museum archipelago. I'm in Elsner. Museum archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than fifteen minutes. So let's get started this. A Statue of George Washington in Manhattan's Union Square is the oldest statue in New York. City's Park Service. It was erected before the civil war it was cast to present Washington on one particular day. November twenty fifth seventeen eighty three otherwise known in New York as evacuation day on that day which was just after the end of the American revolutionary war defeated. British army departed New York City because Manhattan was their stronghold and most of the black people who had joined the British side with the promise of freedom were evacuated from in defiance of George Washington's terms for their surrender surrender and all that but this particular statute George Washington is commemorating a hugely important date. For this city it's commemorating and marketing in celebrating the idea of freedom being brought to the country and hence as a as a moment to look at and draw attention to the hypocrisy of all of that right but at the same time that he's being celebrated for freeing the country he's actively enslaving a number of other people most of them in Virginia some with him there and actually a couple of them getting onto boats and going up to Nova Scotia with the British because they had escaped and joined and joined that emigration again. That's why the specificity of this statue mattered. The number of black people enslaved by Washington on the day commemorated by the statue is two hundred and seventy one. And these people are at the heart of Dr Lyra Montero's project Washington's next the idea of like how do we make visible for instance the enslaved people who are invisible at all of these sites of memory that were about white supremacy when they were created? And now they still are. But we don't talk about that rate like. How do we make that visible? That's something that I've been playing around with for a long time. Hi My name is Lion Terro and I am an assistant. Professor of history at Rutgers University Newark also teach in the Graduate Program in American Studies and the African American and African studies department. And I also am the CO founder of the museum on site and the creator of our most recent project. Washington's next the name Washington's next comes from one of president trump's tweets following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville Virginia on August twelfth. Twenty seventeen trump took the opportunity to argue against movements to remove statues of confederate generals like Robert e Lee which live in prominent public places in. Us cities one of these tweets reads. You CAN'T CHANGE HISTORY. Robert e Lee Stonewall Jackson who's next Washington Jefferson so foolish? I'm a little bit sorry to ask this. But could you lay out? Trump's argument such as it is or could you explain what he's trying to say I can I can. I can explain the argument that he is referencing. How about that whether or not? He actually understands it. I don't know but Donald Trump took an argument that has existed. You know probably just about as long as we've had. You know controversies over these statues honoring confederate leaders. That is the slippery slope argument and the people who make this argument tend not to be the ones who are like overtly. Gung Ho in like you know it's our. It's our southern heritage to honor. Robert Lee sought those folks right. It's more the people who are. Historians sometimes are historians. Sometimes like Museum folks. The argument that they make that will yes. It's not good that there is a statue to Robert e Lee but the thing is if we take him down and obviously using him to stand up for all the confederate statues if we take him down will then where we're going to stop because if the reason why he's not appropriate for us to honor in public spaces because the slavery will there are other slave owners that we honor in public space and of course the biggest ones there are George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. And of course there's no way in Hell we're GONNA get rid of those statues right what we're GonNa Take Down The Washington Monument. I don't think so you know so. The idea is a slippery slope that were setting up if we are starting to tumble down the minute that we start taking down the statues of people who supported and promoted slavery and part of it part of that slippery slope that you're describing is that to to to the extent that that someone like Washington encapsulates our founding myth. We can't let it touch that myth it's too sacred and were protecting them by protecting the statues around them but the things that Washington represents the thing that the things that I learned as a school child in the floor of the public schools about George Washington were things about his honor and his honesty and how thank goodness. He wasn't a tyrant because America would look a lot different there as a result and that is a very very powerful thing on the location. There's also that America is a wonderful beautiful place. I'm very much come from the perspective that enslaving the human beings is one of the most humanizing things imaginable for the person. Doing it to you. Sum that up really well in terms of you know the role that George Washington much more so than Thomas. Jefferson rain serves as being the father of the country. It's impossible to imagine questioning anything about him right anything about his character as he said righties this honest person all these things we should look up to him and a lot of that is just good old fashioned like nationalism and the need for a coming out of nowhere nation state like the United States to create these religious symbols of its and his religious narratives about where it comes from right and how important in powerful it is and get George Washington. Thomas Jefferson pair just so central to that and so I think that when people are saying that honestly like when the tone of voice in which I I hear the slippery slope argument from scholars and from museum practitioner is an from public parks officials and also frankly from Donald trump is less one of like panic and concern about attacking that legacy and much more one of full. That's just silly obviously wouldn't do that. And the way that you phrased that tweet really kind of like set it up very nicely for us. You know who's next Washington Washington's next and we added the exclamation point under the title also because because our fearlessly really loves exclamation points so we thought it would be inappropriate thing to add the centerpiece of Washington's next was a participatory commemorative experience focused around that statue of George Washington. In Union Square Montero and the Washington's.