Atlanta’s Confederate Monuments: How Do ‘Context Markers’ Help Explain Racism?

Atlanta’s monuments to its Confederate past cannot be taken down by law. But the city is now moving to provide much-needed historical context on the realities of slavery, the civil war and the era of Jim Crow segregation that followed.

Homages to Atlanta’s history crop up in many cemeteries and parks. Little context accompanies those stone memorials with engraved plaques referring to “heroic efforts” and the south’s soldiers’ efforts to “unite” the country after the civil war. There is no mention of racism or slavery and segregation.

But now, Atlanta is placing four new context markers near some of the statues and monuments that will offer a fuller and more honest accounting of the south’s history and its legacy of slavery and racism.

One marker will go up near the 1935-constructed Peachtree Battle Avenue monument, a simple stone engraved memorial commemorating an 1864 civil war battle stressing peace between the north and south. The new additional panel next to it will point out flaws in the monument’s inscription by saying: “[It] describes the United States after the civil war as a perfected nation. This ignores the segregation and disenfranchisement of African Americans and others that still existed in 1935.”


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