Textual politics of Alabama's historical markers: Slavery, emancipation, and civil rights - DUPLICATE ENTRY

Matthew R. Cook, Eastern Michigan University


In light of recent protests and debates over Confederate symbols, markers, and flags after the 2015 Charleston shooting, the South remains fertile ground for critically reflecting on the role of history in shaping the present. State historical marker programs are a near ubiquitous feature of the United States' commemorative landscape, used to retell history at important sites. However, geographers and other memory studies scholars have not devoted much time or effort in researching historical markers, in part because they are often considered mundane or they are ignored in favor of researching stand-alone monuments or other memory projects. Engaging with textual politics-the belief that language, words, and narrative are politically active within commemorative landscapes-along with the concepts of historical responsibility and surrogation, this chapter presents an analysis of the Alabama Historical Association's marker program and its presentation and interpretation of African-American history. Findings include that historical periods of slavery and emancipation have largely been ignored, while the Civil Rights Movement is more widely represented and celebrated as a success story.