“A riot is the language of the unheard.” “Stop being racist.” “We will stand until the statue falls.”

Social justice messages ring the base of the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia. As the last Confederate icon standing on the capital’s Monument Avenue, the 1890 statue continues to be embroiled in controversy, its fate uncertain.

Intensified Black Lives Matter protests over the past several months have led to the toppling of Confederate symbols across the south. What implications does this trend have for such symbols on school, college, and university campuses?

To explore that question, the Virginia Tech Department of History will host a virtual teach-in, “Confederate Commemoration in Academic Settings: A Webinar on Memory and Race,” on Aug. 12 at noon.

“The recent debates over Confederate commemorations are the most recent manifestation of debates about the Civil War that Americans have engaged in since the very day the war ended,” said Brett Shadle, chair of the Department of History. “In this webinar, we have assembled an outstanding panel of experts and activists to reflect on the meaning of statues, flags, and other commemorations of the Confederacy, particularly in academic settings where we insist that all students, faculty, and staff be treated equally and with respect.”

The panelists include:

  • Penny Blue, author of “A Time to Protest: Leadership Lessons from My Father Who Survived the Segregated South for 99 Years.” A founding member and board member of the Friends of Booker T. Washington National Monument, Blue is also a member of the Franklin County School Board in Virginia.
  • Taulby Edmondson (PhD, ASPECT ’18), an adjunct professor of history and religion and culture at Virginia Tech. His article about college fraternities actively preserving the “Lost Cause” mythology — “The Campus Confederate Legacy We’re Not Talking About” — was recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Ashley Reichelmann, an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Tech, where she also serves as associate director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. Reichelmann researches collective memory as a cause and consequence of contemporary violence and prejudice, with a specific focus on how memorialization and representation of past violence affects modern identity and intergroup relations. Her current work examines the impact of different types of representations, such as memorials and monuments, on local communities.
  • T.J. Tallie, an assistant professor of African history at the University of San Diego and the author of “Queering Colonial Natal: Indigeneity and the Violence of Belonging in Southern Africa.” Tallie’s research focuses on colonialism, gender and racial identity, indigeneity, and sexuality.

Follow this link to register for the free webinar.

The event is the fifth in a series of social justice teach-ins sponsored by departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Videos of past events are available on a series of event pages on the college website; the sponsoring departments are also using those pages as repositories for further resources.

The Department of Religion and Culture was the first to host a webinar. In “Teach-In on Anti-Black State Violence on June 10, a panel of faculty members examined the historical roots of anti-Black state violence internationally.

A week later, Department of Science, Technology, and Society scholars offered research-based perspectives on the nexus of technology and racism. The “Technology and Anti-Black Surveillance” page offers the panelists’ suggested study guide.

On June 30, the Department of English hosted “Black Matters: A Teach-In on Language, Literature, Rhetoric, Writing, and Verbal Art” with eight panelists, including world-renowned poet and activist Nikki Giovanni, a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. A video of the event and a suggested list of readings are available on the event page.

Two days later, the Department of History hosted its first virtual webinar, in which panelists discussed the historical and social contexts of Black Lives Matter and other movements in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The “Black Lives Matter and Social Movements” page offers Department of History faculty members’ suggested readings on race.

“The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences is uniquely positioned to provide transdisciplinary perspectives on the new civil rights movement,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “Drawing on our wealth of faculty and graduate student expertise and their scholarly networks, we are proud to host a series of teach-ins designed to foster contemplation and dialogue on some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time.”