Project Section: Monuments & Memorials

Monuments & Memorials

Our Monuments & Memorials project will tackle our nation’s countless statues, plaques, and markers — the overwhelming majority of which are dedicated to men.

The Vietnam Women\'s Memorial  depicts three female nurses with a wounded male soldier.

The Vietnam Women's Memorial depicts three female nurses with a wounded male soldier.

A capital reflects the values of the country, and Washington D.C. is no different. The city boasts a number of famous and beloved monuments — the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial — all of which are heavily visited by the capital’s 15 million annual tourists. Of the forty-five monuments and memorials in Washington D.C., only one expressly honors the contributions of American women: the Vietnam Women’s Memorial (pictured at right), which was finally installed in 1993 after years of opposition. Although 265,000 women served during the Vietnam War, there was strong resistance to the idea of commemorating them in sculpture. Some opponents insisted that the Three Fighting Men sculpture at the Vietnam Memorial — which depicts three male soldiers — magically represented all human beings regardless of gender, and that it would somehow “cheapen” things by including a sculpture of an actual female. (One commissioner remarked that putting up a monument to women veterans made about as much sense as putting up a statue of dogs who had been in Vietnam.)

But bias in monuments is hardly restricted to Washington D.C. It’s a similar story in cities all over the country. A quick survey of New York City, for example, indicates that of the 159 historical statues on display, only five are of women.

Our Monuments & Memorials project will address this problem on both a local and national level: from urging municipalities all over the country to install and name memorials after women, to securing more monuments to women in Washington D.C. We’ll need project coordinators, state coordinators, local advocates, interns, and volunteers of every description.

Please email us at if you’d like to be involved. Or visit our How You Can Help page for more information.

Watch this space for updates as the project takes shape.

Monuments & Memorials Project Updates

Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Project

Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, was one of the most noteworthy leaders of the civil rights movement. The National Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Committee in Ruleville, Mississippi, is raising funds to erect a statue of Hamer beside her gravesite.

Eleven years ago Mississippi native Patricia Thompson saw the neglected and unkempt grave of Fannie Lou Hamer and “vowed that no one else would see it in that condition again.” She began to work with people who knew Hamer, including Charles McLaurin, who met Hamer during a voter registration drive in Mississippi during the civil rights movement.

Fanny Lou Hamer, a leader of the Freedom Democratic party, speaks before the credentials committee of the Democratic national convention in Atlantic City, August 22, 1964. (AP Photo/stf)

Fanny Lou Hamer, a leader of the Freedom Democratic party, speaks before the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, August 22, 1964. (AP Photo/stf)

Fannie Lou Hamer was a brave and courageous woman who, in McLaurin’s words, “never backed down.” When she registered to vote in 1962, she was thrown off the plantation where she worked as a sharecropper. In 1963 she was arrested in Winona, Mississippi, with other civil rights activists and was beaten severely by two policemen. She regularly sang hymns to other civil rights workers to bolster their courage, and was revered as a maternal figure by the northern college students who went south to work in the civil rights movement. In 1964 Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to challenge the Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City. Her testimony before the credentials committee at the convention was televised, and the nation was riveted by her words. Hamer’s accomplishments are numerous, yet she is not as well-known as she should be.

In December of 1999 Patricia Thompson, Charles McLaurin, and others began the work of maintaining the gravesite and started to talk with the city of Ruleville about their plans for the future. Now, where there was once a neglected grave, there is a garden. The Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden has a gazebo, fountains, shrubbery, and an area where a statue is planned. The city of Ruleville helps to maintain the garden.

In February of 2010 the Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Committee was launched to raise funds for a statue to honor this great woman. Charles McLaurin is the Director of the project and Patricia Thompson is the Coordinator. Contributions are tax-deductible, with fiscal sponsorship provided by the National Black United Fund.

As Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College, observes, “Black women are mostly invisible in the public statuary.” Please visit the committee’s website and help honor Fannie Lou Hamer with a statue. Send this information along to your friends and let’s make it happen. I passionately agree with Dr. Malveaux when she says, “Can the sister get a statue? She can if enough people support the cause.”

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