Confederate Monuments in Context: Arlington National Cemetery and the Legacy of the Confederacy

Shannon Baker, Dr. Gregory Samantha Rosenthal, Department of History, Roanoke College, 221 College Lane, Salem, VA 24153

This paper analyzes the Confederate monument at Arlington National Cemetery and places it in the larger context of current contentious debates around Confederate symbols and white supremacy in the United States. The Confederate monument at Arlington is an apt case for further study for this project due to its own historical importance regarding the Civil War. Arlington was originally the home of Robert E. Lee and Mary Custis Lee, but as a consequence of the war the property was taken by the Union army and turned into a burial ground. Originally, the Federal government did not permit any Confederates to be buried at Arlington, but as the Lost Cause grew in power they were allowed to be laid to rest in the hallowed grounds alongside a statue, erected in 1914, representing a clear example of Lost Cause ideology and imagery. Applying academic theory from memory studies and public history to explain the power of hegemonic narratives of the past, this paper shows how Confederate memorials have come to be so controversial. Using images of the monument, writings from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and newspaper articles from the 1910s, I interpret the arc of the Lost Cause at the turn of the twentieth century. This paper also discusses recent developments in American history, including the push to remove Confederate symbols following the 2015 shooting at the historic Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston and the 2020 murder of George Floyd, and what, exactly, these important events mean for the future of the Arlington Confederate monument and the Lost Cause narrative in America. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Shannon Baker

Institution: Roanoke College

Type: Poster

Subject: History

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 7
Date/Time: Tue 3:30pm-4:30pm
Session Number: 5169