Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Chicago doing this?
Chicago joins cities across the country reckoning with the omissions and over-simplifications present in their public art collections. The Chicago Monuments Project intends to grapple with the often unacknowledged – or forgotten – history associated with the City’s various municipal art collections and provides a vehicle for a public dialogue that will elevate new ways to memorialize Chicago’s history more equitably and accurately.
Are all of these monuments going to be removed?
No, this is not a condemnation of these monuments, but rather this is an opportunity to learn from them. We invite Chicagoans to provide valuable feedback, reflecting on the city’s history and how it should be encapsulated in our public art moving forward.
Who's making these decisions?
Leading this review of monuments is the Chicago Monuments Project Advisory Committee, a group of community leaders, artists, architects, scholars, curators and city officials who have dedicated their time, experience and expertise.
The Committee will make advisory recommendations for new public art for commissions, the addition of signage or other modifications to some artworks, and possibly the removal of some artworks. The public will have multiple opportunities to provide input before any decision is finalized and implemented.
Why are monuments of famous Americans like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington included in the list of flagged monuments?
The history of national leaders is complicated because the history of the nation itself is complicated - in ways that too often have been overlooked. The artworks that were selected were done so on the advice of public historians and through direct conversations with individuals and groups that have raised specific concerns. The Chicago Monument Projects is not meant to adjudicate American history rather it is about leveraging this opportunity to promote an active dialogue.
Mount Vernon was the home of the celebrated military hero and first President of the United States, George Washington. It was also home to hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children who lived here under Washington’s control. At the time of George Washington’s death, the Mount Vernon estate’s enslaved population consisted of 317 people.
Franklin’s achievements in helping shape United States democracy as well as his role in other disciplines are well-documented. Historical archives reflect some negative personal views that were not unusual for the time. Franklin owned two slaves who served in household responsibilities, but he later freed both and became an outspoken abolitionist.
Lincoln's legacy as a statesmen and anti-slavery figure stands side by side with his historical role as an escalator of Indian removal. The Dakota War mass hanging in Minnesota in 1862, coupled with the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, are two prominent examples of the course of Indian-state relations during his Presidency.
Ulysses S. Grant
American Indian removal continued under Grant, who broke peace treaties for westward expansion including the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868 while also standing as the celebrated general who battled to free enslaved people and save the union.
During McKinley’s Presidency, he continued policies of displacing, discriminating against, and abusing native people. McKinley signed the Curtis Act of 1898, which took away the sovereign status of native tribes. As a result of the Spanish American War of 1898, which McKinley tried to avoid, the U.S. greatly expanded its military power in the Caribbean and Pacific through the acquisition of formerly Spanish colonial possessions of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.
Why is “The Republic” included?
Daniel Chester French’s “The Republic” is one of many artworks that originated with the World’s Columbian Exposition. Placed in Jackson Park near the site of the original, colossal version, it is the largest landmark that commemorates the fair, an event that presented a highly distorted vision of Chicago’s past and present.
Why is the “ Illinois Centennial Monument” included, the narrative includes representations of Native Indians?
The Centennial Monument is one of many artworks in public places to include images of American Indians to illustrate allegories of the historic pageant of the region, without recognition of their violent removal.
Why isn’t [insert monument] being presented on the website for public conversation?
The committee understands that these artworks are not a comprehensive inventory of all of the monuments and other public symbols that need attention, but is the start to a long overdue and necessary conversation. Chicagoans are invited to review the artworks that have been identified, suggest others, and recommend ideas for additional public art. The Stephen A. Douglas Tomb and Memorial, for example, is a state historic site and not under the purview of the City of Chicago.
What about the names of parks, schools and buildings?
History, individuals and communities are commemorated in many ways, but this review is focused on monuments, memorials and public art located in the public way. The recommendations from the advisory committee do not carry over beyond the scope of this project, but we hope that the work can help City continue to do the hard and necessary work ahead.
How can I tell you what I think?
Through the website chicagomonuments.org, you can submit feedback on the selected monuments, raise questions, and suggest new monuments. You can also participate in an upcoming speaker series event or attend an online drop-in conversation with members of the advisory committee. Opportunities for organizations and artists are to host conversations and submit proposals for new artworks are also available.