‘Blank Slate’ monument for racial justice arrives at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge


An interactive monument to promote racial justice will be displayed today at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, site of the Bloody Sunday March in 1965, when law enforcement clubbed and gassed peaceful protesters.

“Blank Slate: Hope For a New America” ​​was created by Ghanaian sculptor Kwame Akoto-Bamfo and artist Brendan Burke. It has been on tour since last year and is intended to be a counterpoint to more than 2,000 monuments and symbols that honor the Confederacy, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a press release.

Today will mark the first time the Blank Slate monument has stood next to an active Confederate symbol on public land, the SPLC said. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is best known as the site of the march that galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But Pettus was a Confederate general and U.S. Senator from Alabama who served as Grand Dragon of Ku Klux Klan.

“Confederate monuments are intimidating. The Confederate generals that the monuments celebrate despise the others. With the Blank Slate, people rise above each other to rise together, to speak truth to power,” artist Akoto-Bamfo said in the SPLC press release.

The monument will be unveiled at the foot of the bridge over Broad Street in Selma at 3pm today.

The Blank Slate monument features four figures that symbolize the historic struggles of African Americans: an enslaved ancestor, a lynched Union martyr soldier, a struggling activist mother, and a baby representing the next generation. At the top is an interactive panel held by the mother figure to symbolize hope and healing. The public can share their messages and ideas via a dedicated Wi-Fi system, in conjunction with a #BlankSlateHope social media campaign.

The Blank Slate monument, transported on a flatbed truck, made stops in cities significant to African-American history, including Louisville, Ky.; Princeton, Ind., Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, DC, Charlotte and Atlanta.

The monument has been displayed at the SPLC’s Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery and at ArtsRevive in Selma. After today’s event, the monument will be transferred to ArtsRevive and then prepared for a private sale and move to a permanent location.

Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, co-creator of the Blank Slate: Hope for a New America monument that will be on display in Selma today, also created this artwork displayed at the National Peace and Justice Memorial in Montgomery to recognize the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. (Photo by Susan Glaser, The Plain Dealer)

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