Gray State, Blue City
Many years ago, I wrote an article about the Confederate monument in Nashville’s Centennial Park. I ended by describing how Nashville citizens who were frustrated with having a monument to segregation in our most iconic location (with a symbol to democracy–the Parthenon–at its center) couldn’t respond even with an interpretive sign, let alone removal. The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act prevented cities from enacting ANY changes to Confederate monuments without state approval.
This frustration was one of the main things that drove me to law school. The law prevented education from serving as a compromise or solution, so I needed to learn how the law worked and how people could work within it or change it.
Now, I’m proud to share that my law article on this topic was just published by the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law (JETLaw). The article is called, “Grey State, Blue City: Defending Local Control Against Confederate ‘Historical Preservation.'”
Here’s the abstract:
Confederate monuments have become lightning rods across the American landscape. While these ubiquitous symbols have spread Lost Cause propaganda for over one hundred years, they have also instigated unprecedented protest and violence since the 2015 Charleston massacre, 2017 Charlottesville rally, and 2020 George Floyd murder. In response, southern state legislatures have passed preemptory “statue statutes,” laws that obstruct left-leaning cities from removing Confederate monuments. This Note compares the political and legal strategies cities and citizens have used to overcome these legal barriers, both in opposition to individual monuments and statue statutes themselves. Using Tennessee’s Historical Commission waiver process as a case study, this Note reveals how commission-based statue statutes act as objective façades disguising partisan bans on Confederate monument removal. Therefore, this Note urges that cities shift their energy from seeking waivers against individual monuments to publicly challenging historical commissions and statue statues so that citizens can regain legal pathways to peacefully and safely remove Confederate monuments.