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T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 228 dialogue into how the forces of tourism exploit or revitalize a culture or community. Beard-Moose’s affable writing style and sharp wit make this a readable book for the student, regionalist, or scholar. I look forward to her next “update.” SUSAN M. ABRAM Western Carolina University Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory. By Owen J. Dwyer and Derek H. Alderman. Chicago: Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago, 2008. viii, 144 pp. $49.50 (cloth). ISBN 978-1-93006671 -7. $27.50 (paper). ISBN 978-1-930066-83-0. In the not very distant past of thirty-odd years ago, African Americans were nearly totally absent from American public history sites. In public parks and the courthouse lawns, memorials celebrated elite white men, many of whom had in fact participated in upholding slavery and racial inequality. But in the last thirty years, in the wake of a successful movement to achieve civil rights, America’s memorial landscape has been radically reshaped. Today, there are over a dozen museums dedicated to remembering the civil rights movement. Sites of horrific violence, such as Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, have been turned into commemorative landscapes, while plaques and markers honoring the black freedom struggle have appeared in southern cities and along the region’s highways. The most mundane but powerful example of the immense changes in the American landscape might be the rapid rise in the number of streets being renamed for movement luminaries, especially for Martin Luther King Jr. By 2003, 730 streets in thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia had been named for King. Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory explores the meaning and significance of this memorialization of the civil rights movement. By focusing on the politics of producing and locating the memorials, as well as the histories they relate, Dwyer and Alderman demonstrate that memorials do not establish “an authoritative recounting of the past” (p. 14). Rather, they provide a new means of contesting the legacies and meanings of the past. In the case of civil rights memorials, these confrontations offer a window into the nature and extent of racism in contemporary American society. In this concise and cogently written book, Dwyer and Alderman offer a useful introduction to many of the questions central to the study of memorials and historical memory. The first of their three chapters J U L Y 2 0 1 0 229 examines which stories civil rights memorials relate, and which histories they tend to ignore. The second chapter looks at the politics and economics of creating civil rights memorials, while the third analyzes the location and distribution of civil rights memorials, both on a regional and a local scale. Dwyer and Alderman find that, for the most part, civil rights memorials relate a celebratory story of a “won cause” that focuses on the dramatic victories toppling legal segregation. This rendering of history highlights major events and elite, male leaders. Thus while civil rights memorials offer a departure from traditional public history in that they commemorate the black past, they hew closely to other memorial conventions by focusing on “great men” rather than everyday people or grassroots organizing. The book also offers fascinating portraits of the many interests at stake in building memorials, from white politicians and businessmen who believe a new civil rights museum will remake their city’s image and bring in tourist dollars, to long-committed black activists, or “memorial entrepreneurs ,” who desperately want to keep the past alive in order to offer lessons for today. Building these memorials, Dwyer and Alderman make clear, is a form of political work that requires major collaboration and cooperation. The authors offer an engaging introduction to the field of memorial studies, and it would make an excellent teaching text. It is also a useful guide to how geographers think about memorials. Explicitly pedagogical , the epilogue focuses on teaching visitors how to “read” memorial landscapes like a book by listing thirty helpful questions to ask about memorial sites. For students of Alabama history, the book offers an extended...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-9961
Print ISSN
0002-4341
Pages
pp. 228-230
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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