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Where Are All the Monuments to the Progressive Americans?


Where Are All the Monuments to the Progressive Americans?

Peter Dreier

The current controversy over whether to dismantle statues of some prominent Confederate figures is a battle over whom we admire and consider as heroes. It is also a battle over who has power to shape how we view our history.


An excellent article! Thank you again, Professor Dreier, for your research, your writing, and your thoughts.

The last paragraph, listing those Progressive Americans who have not been thus honored, is a poignant reminder to us to at least honor their work and sacrifices by trying to live up to their ideals, in ways large and small, in our daily lives, both public and personal.
Let us never forget them, nor what they so courageously stood for, even though our nation chooses to
glorify the leaders of Commerce and Militarism instead.


A statue of Ken Kesey in a Eugene OR park became so popular that so many locals and visitors started calling the park Ken Kesey Park that the City Council recently renamed the park after Kesey.


Another interesting aspect of the question is how many progressives have been immortalized in foundations that carry on the work so deeply loved by so many and carry their names.


Very interesting and thought-provoking article. A couple thoughts come to mind: 1) progressive causes and activists don’t usually come from money or power, which makes it more difficult to do things like get land donated or statues commissioned; 2) often, it seems, statues get made of people for whom it was important that they feel exalted – in other words, above other people. In a sense, this stands in conflict with progressive values; I don’t recall Ghandhi or MLK ever expressing a wish to have monuments made to honor them. I’m not opposed to honoring progressive activists at all – and I suspect that any such statues, etc., would be created in such a way as to provide a public benefit, such as a park, school, or library, so as to honor the person’s work and commitment to humanity.

I was the most surprised that Muhammad Ali had no such statue. Perhaps his slow exit from the public stage was one factor. In any case, this ought to be rectified.


Only oligarchy approved monuments are allowed.


I was surprised by the lack of major Muhammed Ali statues in the U.S. as well. The best known statue of him seems to be the one by Andrew Edwards that stands in Liverpool England. There certainly are a ton of places and streets named for him though.


Shirley Chisholm
Gloria Steinem
Margaret Sanger
Clara Barton
Dorothea Dix
Serena Williams
Billie Jean King
each deserve something named after them, not necessarily a statue.


When I lived in Europe in the Seventies (for 3 years) I found that, by far, the two most loved and respected Americans seemed to be JFK and Muhammad Ali.


Thank-you for the work in making this fairly comprehensive list.

While there is no statue, Eugene Debs home is maintained as a museum and library to his work in Terre Haute on the Indiana State campus.

And Rachael Carson’s home in Springdale, Pennsylvania is preserved as an environmental education center. And the Pennsylvania Dept of Environmental Protection’s headquarters in Harrisburg is named the “Rachael Carson Building”. And, I just found out that the bridge that I and everybody else around here calls the “Ninth Street Bridge”, across the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh, is actually the “Rachael Carson Bridge”. Odd, because the fact that the other two of these identical “three sisters” yellow suspension bridges are named after Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol is far better known.

And, there is a statue of Rachael Carson - at the eclectic and quirky Museo Rocsen, in the tiny town of Nono, CĂłrdoba, Argentina.


And had MLK been able to travel forward in time he would have been appalled at the MLK Monument in DC - its depiction of him reeks of the current day revisionist version of MLK - cleansed of his opposition to war and capitalism.


I agree. He would be very upset by that monument. It does not begin to give him the credit that he deserves, nor does it further his goals. He would have wanted those efforts and resources applied to ending poverty and war.


Every city/town/village should pay central and visible tributes (monuments or otherwise) to the natives and the slaves - as a constant reminder to the collective conscience. Germans have done it well post nazism - which really had a short life compared to slavery.


To be fair, John Muir is memorialized in my pasta sauce. (https://www.muirglen.com/)


There are many Americans who find Margaret Sanger’s support for eugenics to eradicate African-Americans–as well as her and Planned Parenthood’s support for abortion–to be morally reprehensible. Who decides which people promoted values sufficiently universal to merit a memorial on public grounds? If you’re going to take down statues of Confederates because “most” Americans find them offensive, then it cuts both ways and we should not be replacing them with statues of activists many other people find offensive, too.