Memorials and monuments are part of every culture. In the territory they can be found within parks, at important sites, and within the townscape. They are erected to honor important figures, events, concepts, and other subjects. They are a form of public memory. They reflect the particularities of the time when they are erected, and the opinions of the people that erected them. Questions related to relevance of previously erected monuments have lead to debates over whether they should remain, be removed, or have plaques added to offer context. One such debate occurred in the territory in 2020, and resulted in the removal of a memorial.
In this activity, students will analyze monuments and memorials found in the US Virgin Islands and discuss where they are located and what they represent. The class will pretend they are on a Monument, Memorial and Statue Committee and discuss whether the monuments currently erected in the territory should stay in place, be removed or have historical context added. Students will read a legislative bill and use newspapers to research a memorial on St. Thomas that was removed in 2020. They will write an essay to share their opinion on the removal.
Primary Sources in this Activity
Suggested Teaching Instructions
This activity may be covered over several days as it requires students to do research, and prepare their positions on a topic for discussion and debate.
For this activity the monuments and memorials are the primary sources. The teacher will need to source images of 5-7 monuments and memorials from their island, or from the territory, and have the images ready to share with students on the smartboard or on computers. Some options for each island are included below.
St. Croix: David Hamilton Jackson, Fort Christiansvaern Lawn; David Hamilton Jackson, Grove Place; Freedom, Frederiksted Park; Governor Carl Peter Limpricht in Limpricht Park on King Street; Statue of Lady Justice, Territorial Court; Broken Shackles, St. Croix Educational Complex High School; Masonry Arch, St. Croix Educational Complex High School; Veterans Memorial, Frederiksted Park; and Millennial Monument, Point Udall East End.
St. Thomas: Edith L. Williams, Educator’s Park; J. Antonio Jarvis, Educator’s Park; Rothschild Francis, Educator’s Park; Freedom, Emancipation Garden; King Christian IX, Emancipation Garden (Removed); Liberty Bell, Emancipation Garden; Veterans Memorial, Roosevelt Park; President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Roosevelt Park; Three Queens Fountain, Government Hill; the The Little Mermaid, WICO/Havensight Shopping Center; and Arthur S. Fairchild Memorial, Magens Bay.
St. John: Freedom, Franklin A. Powell, Sr. Park.
Analysis questions are provided to help students to meet and understand the monuments and memorials.
Analyze the Primary Source
The following questions can be used to analyze the monuments and memorials the teacher and/or students choose to focus on. The questions are derived from the Analyze Artwork Worksheet found at Primary Source Analysis Worksheets.
Use the following questions to meet and analyze monuments and memorials found in the territory.
What do you notice first about the monument/memorial?
Is the monument/memorial a form of artwork? What type?
List the people, objects, activities, words that you see.
What does the monument/memorial represent?
Who made the monument/memorial? (For sculptures, the artist’s name may be available online or in newspaper articles.)
Why was it erected?
What is the message that the monument/memorial conveys?
What documents and resources could you use to help you understand the person, event or topic that the memorial/monument represents?
Before introducing the activity the teacher can explain the terms monument and memorial, as needed. Ask students to consider and discuss, why do we memorialize people and events through sculptures and monuments?
Have students think about and list monuments and memorials on their island, and on the sister islands. Include where they are located. The teacher can write the monuments the students list on the smartboard, and can prompt students if there are other monuments that they do not list. The teacher can show photos of the memorials and monuments as needed, and use the questions found under Analyze the Primary Source to help students meet and interpret the memorials and monuments.
Class Project: This activity can be used to explore the topic of memorializing historical figures and events. It can be completed in class, or in small groups. Students will need time to research the various memorials and create their recommendations, therefore the project may need to take place over several days.
Tell students to imagine that they have been appointed by the Virgin Islands Legislature to a Territorial Monument, Memorial and Statue Committee. The committee’s task is to make recommendations in favor or against memorials and monuments that exist.
Step 1: Have students brainstorm criteria to help evaluate whether to keep a monument, memorial, or statue in the public place. Discuss potential criteria as a class. For example, criteria could include the historical figure memorialized, the artistic quality of the monument, the sculptor’s reputation, the location of the monument, etc.
Step 2: The teacher can choose 5-7 monuments found in the territory for the class to evaluate. Present images of the monuments and memorials selected on the smart board as needed, one at a time. Tell students that there are three potential options for each monument or memorial:
Remain (in its current location as is)
Contextualize (add full historical details in its current location)
Remove (to a territorial museum, fort, or other location)
For each individual monument or memorial ask the groups of students to make a list of the positive and negative aspects of keeping or removing the statue or memorial. Have them consider what the monument and statue represent and the artistry. Have them use the criteria they developed. Ask them to explain their opinions.
Step 3: Following completion of the evaluation activity, lead a class discussion on the issue. Discuss which monuments and memorials students chose to remove, remain, or contextualize. If different groups placed monuments in different categories, ask them to explain and discuss their reasoning.
Step 4: After completing the discussion, have students share their answers on the following questions:
What were the most important factors in recommending a monument, memorial or statue be kept where it is? Explain. What were the most important factors in recommending that historical context be added beside the statue or monument? Explain. What were the most important factors in recommending that a monument or statue be removed? Explain.
Inform students that one of the statues on St. Thomas was removed. BILL NO. 33-0369 authorized “the removal of the copper bust of King Christian IX from the Emancipation Garden, St. Thomas”. Instruct students to read the the following resources.
1. BILL NO. 33-0369 (View the Bill on LegVI.org)
2. Newspaper Article from August 7, 1909, documenting when the King Christian IX Memorial was originally erected. (View Newspaper, Go to Page 2)
3. Newspaper Articles and Letters to the Editor from 2020 related to the removal/relocation of King Christian IX Memorial. (These articles and letters are available online on the Daily News, VI Source and Consortium, and can be found with search engine terms such as “King Christian bust removed St. Thomas”.)
Students will use the information gathered from the resources presented, and will research King Christian IX, and write an essay answering the following questions.
Essay: Who was King Christian IX? What were the views of those that decided to erect the bust in 1909? Explain your answer using references from the 1909 newspaper article. What were the views of those that sought to remove the memorial, 111 years later, in 2020? Explain your answer using references from the articles and editorials from 2020. How did the views change? Do you agree or disagree with the removal of the King Christian IX Memorial from Emancipation Garden, St. Thomas. Explain your reasons and offer alternative ideas if applicable.