You’re planning an afternoon with friends, just east of Atlanta, Georgia. A picnic, maybe a scenic walk, some fireworks as the sun goes down. You find a park that seems to have it all: Stone Mountain. Then you do some research on it—and learn that it holds significance for the Confederacy AND the modern Ku Klux Klan. WTF?! In the lead-up to Juneteenth, Dr. Elizabeth Alexander joins Jonathan to explore the history and contemporary significance of America’s monuments—who’s represented, in what ways, and what it’ll take to change these narratives.
Elizabeth Alexander – decorated poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and cultural advocate – is president of [ The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation] (https://mellon.org/) . She has held distinguished professorships at Smith College, Columbia University, and Yale University, is Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board.
Dr. Alexander composed and delivered [ “Praise Song for the Day”] (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52141/praise-song-for-the-day) for the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, and is author or co-author of fifteen books, including [American Sublime] (https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/american-sublime) (Pulitzer finalist, Poetry, 2006), [ The Light of the World] (https://www.grandcentralpublishing.com/titles/elizabeth-alexander/the-light-of-the-world/9781455599875/) (Pulitzer finalist, Biography, 2015), and [ The Trayvon Generation] (https://www.grandcentralpublishing.com/titles/elizabeth-alexander/the-trayvon-generation/9781538737903/) (2022).
You can follow Dr. Alexander on [ Twitter] (http://twitter.com/ProfessorEA) @ProfessorEA and [ Instagram] (http://instagram.com/alexanderlizzy) @alexanderlizzy, and at [ elizabethalexander.net] (http://elizabethalexander.net) .
Want to know what the Mellon Foundation is up to? You can follow their work on [ Twitter] (http://twitter.com/mellonfdn) and [ Instagram] (http://instagram.com/mellonfdn) @mellonfdn.
Want to learn more about monuments? Check out the Mellon Foundation’s [Monuments Project] (https://mellon.org/initiatives/monuments/) , and the work of [Monument Lab] (https://monumentlab.com) .
A special thank you to all of our listeners who submitted questions for Dr. Alexander, they very much guided this episode!
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Headshot Credit for Dr. Alexander: Djeneba Aduayom