A couple weekends ago I visited Columbia, South Carolina, for the first time. One of the evenings, I took a walk around the statehouse, admiring the architecture and exploring the monuments and statues on the capitol grounds.
The African American History Monument — dedicated in 2001 — offered an opportunity to pause and reflect. Here are some photos of the monument and the experience it offers:
A representation of a slave ship lies at the entrance and a map depicts the regions of African that men, women, and children were captured, sold, and enslaved.
But the story doesn’t end there. From the sorrowful beginnings and decades of slavery, a more hopeful saga begins, which is powerfully portrayed in the relief panels.
Each “chapter” of the history includes a forward moving figuring, trailblazing the way to the future and celebrating those who self-emancipated, fought for freedom, and advocated for civil rights.
The left side of the monument tells the history of bondage, slavery, escape, Civil War USCT, and emancipation…
The right side of the monument continues the story through Reconstruction, the on-going struggle for Civil Rights, representation in government, and increasing opportunity into the modern era, celebrating the achievements and inspiration of the African American community.
The monument visually tells a story that starts with unimaginable tragedy and yet changes through the brave actions of individuals to become a story a liberty and equality. Like all stories from history, the next chapters are written now…and the monument is a reminder of the past while yet looking to the future.