Margaret Haltom


The Next Southern Landmark: A Roadmap for Confederate Monument Redesigns and RFP for the Site of a Former Confederate Monument

Advised by Daniel D’Oca

Following white supremacists’ acts of violence in Charleston, South Carolina (2015) and Charlottesville, Virginia (2017), activists and city officials mobilized to remove 52 Confederate monuments across the South. This contemporary era of monument removal is well-known—documented in news outlets and academic journals alike—and ongoing. Preservationists dispute the role of monuments in public memory, while progressive policymakers battle against heritage laws that prohibit their removal. But the future of these vacant pedestals, and, in particular, the role of community members and urban planners and designers to collectively create new landmarks in their place, remains relatively unexplored.

This thesis considers the context of, and process for, redesigning the sites of former Confederate monuments through a case study in Memphis, Tennessee. Focused on a former Nathan Bedford Forrest monument and its surrounding nine-acre park, I collaborate alongside a community coalition to create a process for redesign and Request for Proposals. I partner with the Lynching Sites Project (LSP) of Memphis, a coalition of teachers, faith leaders, local historians and other community members seeking to build monuments to victims of racial terror. Together, we ask: How might communities in the South reimagine and redesign former Confederate monuments? And, as the urban planner liaising with this community coalition, what is the planner’s role in creating inclusive processes to reclaim and transform these highly charged public spaces?

Through collaboration with LSP, as well as interviews with other activists, local leaders, planners, and designers, the thesis offers a roadmap for community-driven redesigns and explores the planner’s role in facilitating a more equitable design process.

Margaret Haltom, MUP. A photo illustration of a small monument topped with an American flag and surrounded by traffic cones.
Margaret Haltom, MUP. A map of Health Sciences Park—the site of a former monument to white supremacist Nathan Bedford Forrest—includes commentary from community members. Park goers and planners say the park is not an inclusive or welcoming space. The vacant foundation of the Forrest monument still stands as a symbol of hate in the center of the park
Margaret Haltom, MUP. A collage shows park goers engaging with a public installation beside the vacant Forrest monument. The interactive installation serves as a public ideas generator by displaying community-envisioned memorials and themes from public conversations.   (Collage by author, images on the wall of the installation by Colloqate’s Paper Monuments precedent).
Margraret Haltom, MUP. A timeline of Confederate monument construction charts the rise in monument placement alongside the legislation of segregation, the peak of lynching and the resurgence of the KKK. The timeline demonstrates how Confederate monuments serve as an expression of the “Lost Cause,” the South’s assertion of victory over Reconstruction, the North and Black rights.
Margaret Haltom, MUP. Three renderings show outcomes from precedent design processes. In descending order, the precedents are 1. The General Demotion General Devotion Competition to redesign Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA (source: GDGD Monument Competition, 2017), 2. The King Boston RFP for a memorial to Dr. King in Boston Common (source: MASS Design, 2019) and 3. The National Pulse Memorial and Museum for the site of the 2016 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL (source: Coldefy, RDAI, and HHCP, 2019).
Margaret Haltom, MUP. A collage shows community members engaging in a public review of the future designs for Health Sciences Park. Community members provide critiques and commentary before voting on the winning design.