Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Monuments to Absence: Cherokee Removal and the Contest over Southern Memory

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Monuments to Absence: Cherokee Removal and the Contest over Southern Memory

Article excerpt

Monuments to Absence: Cherokee Removal and the Contest over Southern Memory. By Andrew Denson. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 289. Paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4696-3083-0; cloth, $85.00, ISBN 978-1-4696-3082-3.)

In Monuments to Absence: Cherokee Removal and the Contest over Southern Memory, Andrew Denson makes a significant and timely contribution to a growing body of scholarship on the Native South. With a carefully constructed argument, he demonstrates that "memorializing Cherokee removal is a southern tradition" that has its roots in the early twentieth century and has been manifested in the creation of memorials, the designation of historic sites, and the establishment of tourist attractions spanning at least seven states and continuing into the present (p. 3). Public memory surrounding the forcible removal of thousands of Cherokees from their southeastern homeland in the 1830s, popularly referred to as the Trail of Tears, offers a lens through which to better examine the roles of race and identity in heritage work and memory construction.

One of the prevailing themes of this book is the complex manner in which Cherokee removal entered the collective memory of white southerners. Denson argues that for "non-Indians," remembering removal served an emotional and political need that helped them "fulfill their obligation to recognize injustice and trauma in the nation's past" (p. 11). However, "the memory remained politically innocuous" given both its historical distance and its predication on the belief that Indians vanished from the region and ceased to have claims to the land (p. 11). The continued presence of Cherokees in places like western North Carolina did little to challenge these beliefs, as they were deemed an anomaly and even became an asset in bolstering tourism. The civil rights era saw a surge in Cherokee removal commemorations "as the acknowledgment of Native American dispossession granted some white southerners a politically safe way to consider their region's heritage of racial oppression" while continuing to deny the violence and injustice toward African Americans, whose history had been largely excluded from heritage projects (pp. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.