1st Edition

Contested Commemoration in U.S. History Diverging Public Interpretations

Edited By Klara Stephanie Szlezák, Melissa M. Bender Copyright 2020
    240 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    240 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Against the backdrop of two recent socio-political developments—the shift from the Obama to the Trump administration and the surge in nationalist and populist sentiment that ushered in the current administration—Contested Commemoration in U.S. History presents eleven essays focused on practices of remembering contested events in America’s national history.

    This edited volume contains fresh interpretations of public history and collective memory that explore the evolving relationship between the U.S. and its past. The individual chapters investigate efforts to memorialize events or interrogate instances of historical sanitization at the expense of less partial representations that would include other perspectives. The primary source material and geography covered is extensive; contributors use historic sites and monuments, photographs, memoirs, textbooks, periodicals, music, and film to discuss the periods from colonial America, through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars up until the Vietnam War, Civil Rights movement, and Cold War, to explore how the commemoration of those eras resonates in the twenty-first century.

    Through a range of commemoration media and primary sources, the authors illuminate themes and arguments that are indispensable to students, scholars, and practitioners interested in Public History and American Studies more broadly.

    Introduction: The Mystic Discords of Memory – Contestation, Obliteration, and Sanitization in U.S.-American Cultures of Memory

    Melissa M. Bender and Klara Stephanie Szlezák

    Part I: Sites and Spaces

    Shenandoah National Park and the Racialization of Progress

    Alex Harmon

    Assassinated Memories: The Enduring Debate over the Murder and Legacy of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party in Chicago

    Adrienne Chudzinski

    Memory-Place and the Unintentional Monument: Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena (1961-2012) and Its Legacy

    Amy Bowman-McElhone and Jeanne M. Persuit

    Lost Cause "Ocean to Ocean": Memory, Space, and the Jefferson Davis Highway in the West

    Alexander Finkelstein

    Part II: Textual Representations

    "An American Hero": The Right-Wing Reconstruction of Joseph McCarthy

    Christopher Michael Elias

    "You Were My Heroes": Memorializing Military Nurses of the Vietnam War

    Ingrid Gessner

    Whose Heritage? U.S. History Textbooks, American Exceptionalism, and Hispanophobia

    Alyssa Kreikemeier

    Apologists of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and Efforts toward Historic Preservation and Commemoration

    John Elia

    Part III: Visual and Audiovisual Representations

    "No Longer Here": Remembering Japanese American Internment In School Yearbooks

    Amy J. Lueck

    Recent Antebellum-Themed Cinema: Race, Nation, and the Obama Presidency

    Jayson Baker

    Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and the Preservation and Performance of American Counter-History

    Jodie Childers


    Melissa M. Bender is a senior lecturer and the associate director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of California, Davis. Her monograph, Dysfunctional Family Values: Nurturing the Neoliberal Self in U.S. Memoir, will be published in 2020. Her research interests include visual and material rhetoric, writing studies, and American cultural studies.

    Klara Stephanie Szlezák is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in American Studies at the University of Passau, Germany. She is the author of "Canonized in History": Literary Tourism and 19th-Century Writers’ Houses in New England. Her research interests include museum studies, visual culture studies, and the history of immigration.