Louisiana’s “Uncle Jack” Statue and the Problem of Interpreting Iconography in History Museums

Nick Sacco’s made an outstanding post here. This really deserves to be read by as many people as possible. Please send to your friends.

Exploring the Past

In 1894 The Confederate Veteran, a magazine edited and published by Confederate veterans of the Civil War, offered an op-ed proposing the erection of new statues throughout the South in honor of the “faithful” slaves who stayed behind on their enslavers’ properties during the war. To wit:

It seems opportune now to erect monuments to the Negro race of the war period. The Southern people could not honor themselves more than in cooperating to this end. What figure would be looked upon with kindlier memory than old “Uncle Pete” and “Black Mammy,” well executed in bronze? By general cooperation models of the two might be procured and duplicates made to go in every capital city of the South at the public expense, and then in the other large cities by popular subscription . . . There is not of record in history subordination and faithful devotion by any race…

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One comment

  1. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Good piece by Nick. Thanks for sharing. One of the problems with donating statues and/or other CW stuff to museums is that most of the museums and historical societies in this country are hanging on by a thread. Many have closed their doors. The Public Museum here in Grand Rapids where I worked for almost ten years has cut staff, reduced hours, eliminated “Free Monday” for Grand Rapids city residents, devised some interesting plans to increase membership, established a foundation, formed a partnership with the GR Public Schools to operate a “Museum School” in the facility and has even suggested a county or area-wide millage to support the place, which was largely torpedoed Money is really tight. If they were asked to take and display a huge piece such as “Uncle Jack,” I don’t think they’d be able to do it financially. Looking at the size of “Uncle Jack,” it would take some major reconstruction to even get it through the doors. If they did accept it, it would most likely wind up in our storage building (the old 1950s building) where it would not be displayed (only about 5% of our collection is actually on display in the museum itself). The question of what to do with huge Confederate pieces such as “Uncle Jack” is a difficult one. “Give it to the museum” is not, IMO, a fix-all answer.

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