(April 16, 2017) Like a tocsin warning of the approaching 1930s Great Depression the Dow Jones stock market dropped 11% on October 11, 1929. Almost precisely fifty-eight years later on October 19, 1987 the Dow crashed over twice as sharply, losing 23%. Few investors that witnessed the second crash imagined that such a steep drop was possible and nearly everyone worried about the economic implications for the future. In order to reinforce confidence a sculptor built a Charging Bull statue and installed it in the Wall Street district in 1989. Since attacking bulls throw their victims upward a Bull Market has long been an informal synonym for a rising market.
Last month an investment advisory service installed a statue of a Fearless Girl staring down the charging bull. Their spokesman explained, “[Fearless Girl is] not angry at the bull — she’s confident…and she’s wanting the bull to take note.” Yet when a presumably objective New York Times reporter described the tableau she wrote, “At just over four feet tall, [Fearless Girl] appears ready to take the bull by its horns.” The bull’s sculptor gets the same impression as the reporter. Fearless Girl, he says, changes the entire—positive—meaning of his art.
One Civil War blogger suggests that “Fearless Girl” might be a model for re-interpreting Confederate monuments. Rather than tear them down—although he feels that is sometimes the only proper solution—adding new sculpted elements can enable the monuments to be correctly interpreted. He quotes a “very smart friend” as saying, “What if….we were to add slaves to the base of statues of Lee, Davis, or Stonewall Jackson…? Or what if a US Army solder were added…with a bayoneted musket leveled at Lee and Davis enforcing…the constitution and defiantly…[opposing]…their secession and treason?”
Perhaps his friend’s response was triggered by those who feel that Confederate monuments should remain while the addition of new monuments can demonstrate tangibly how historical perceptions gradually change.
There are, for example, memorials to Martin Luther King in Atlanta, Memphis, Montgomery, and Austin, among other Southern places. Statues to the nine black teenagers who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957 were erected on the grounds of the state capitol on the fiftieth anniversary in 2007 without any moral instruction from the blogger noted above or his “friend.” Yet the same grounds include two Confederate statues put up in 1905 and 1913, respectively: One for the ordinary Rebel soldier and one honoring the women of the Confederacy.
If, however, the blogger and his “friend” are sincere they may wish to urge that a statue of a ten-year-old girl be placed in front of General Sherman’s sculpture located on the edge of Central Park across from the Plaza Hotel where it is passed by tens-of-thousands of people daily. Rather than signifying a make-believe girl, however, the child’s statue could represent a true incident recorded by one of Sherman’s soldier’s during the burning of Atlanta. The testimony of Union Sergeant Allen Campbell can be added on a bronze plaque in front of the girl’s statue:
As I was about to fire one place a little girl about ten years old came to me and said, “Mr. soldier you would not burn our house would you? If you did, where would we live?” She looked at me with such a pleading look…I dropped the torch and walked away.