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Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America [Paperback]

Kirk Savage

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Book Description

Aug. 8 1999

The United States of America originated as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves explores how that history of slavery and its violent end was told in public space--specifically in the sculptural monuments that increasingly came to dominate streets, parks, and town squares in nineteenth-century America. Here Kirk Savage shows how the greatest era of monument building in American history arose amidst struggles over race, gender, and collective memory. As men and women North and South fought to define the war's legacy in monumental art, they reshaped the cultural landscape of American nationalism.

At the same time that the Civil War challenged the nation to reexamine the meaning of freedom, Americans began to erect public monuments as never before. Savage studies this extraordinary moment in American history when a new interracial order seemed to be on the horizon, and when public sculptors tried to bring that new order into concrete form. Looking at monuments built and unbuilt, Savage shows how an old image of black slavery was perpetuated while a new image of the common white soldier was launched in public space. Faced with the challenge of Reconstruction, the nation ultimately recast itself in the mold of the ordinary white man.

Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves, the first sustained investigation of monument building as a process of national and racial definition, probes a host of fascinating questions: How was slavery to be explained without exploding the myth of a "united" people? How did notions of heroism become racialized? And more generally, who is represented in and by monumental space? How are particular visions of history constructed by public monuments? Written in an engaging fashion, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in American culture, race relations, and public art.


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Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves is a history of race in America as seen through the depiction of slavery in sculptures and monuments. Kirk Savage, an assistant professor of art history at the University of Pittsburgh, shows that blacks were seldom depicted in sculpture until after the Civil War, at which time there was a nationwide impetus to commemorate the end of the war and emancipation. Savage considers these statues and monuments to be a lost opportunity: instead of representing a new sense of race in America, the statues featured old stereotypes, the "kneeling slaves" of the title. Far more common were statues featuring ordinary soldiers. The great irony, Savage argues in this thought-provoking book, is that black soldiers--who "were most clearly representative of a national purpose," the fight for equality--were seldom represented in celebratory monuments. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Boldly investigating the meaning of race, the experience of war, and the function of the public monument, Savage (history of art and architecture, Univ. of Pittsburgh) probes the landscape of collective memory on which the art forms of commemoration in the public sphere depicted the shift from slavery to freedom in post-Civil War America, the greatest era of U.S. monument building. The author brilliantly illuminates the cultural and artistic problems in the representational battleground of public space as groups competed to construct history in the language of sculpture. His astute observations reveal not only the theoretical foundation of racism embedded in sculpture but the importance of the aesthetic dimension of racial theory. This tour de force is for any serious collection on U.S. history, art, architecture, or race relations. Highly recommended.?Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA originated as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a paperback edition - just a cheap photocopy: don't buy! May 9 2014
By Ipsaruinadocet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The paperback edition is not a printed edition: it is an extremely cheap reprint, probably from a PDF, with a disastrous loss of quality of all illustrations: they are very heavy in contrast, show smudges, hazing and streaks; in many cases, you can hardly see what is represented in the images.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant stuff April 10 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
GRAPHIC DETAILED WELL DIPICTED, visionary material, compelling book draws the strengths of the courage of the african american people in the face of tragedy and despair
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an eye opener Nov. 2 2009
By Book Lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A careful and thorough look at the American people, our history and psyche, and how we memorialize the significant events of our National adventure. Mr. Savage beautifully and remarkably blends the art, politics, and public rememberence of what is surely our most significant struggle as a nation - defeating slavery.

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