Should Slavery’s Statues be Removed?

On Transitional Justice and Contested Heritage

By Joanna Burch-Brown 2020

What should we do with statues and place-names memorializing people who committed human-rights abuses linked to slavery and postslavery racism? In this article, I draw on UN principles of transitional justice to address this question. I propose that a successful approach should meet principles of transitional justice recognized by the United Nations, including affirming rights to justice, truth, reparations, and guarantees of nonrecurrence of human rights violations. I discuss four strategies for handling contested heritage, examining strengths and weaknesses of each strategy. Examples from Bristol, England, highlight common challenges and positive lessons.

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