Sherman’s Atlanta Legacy
It makes one wonder why there is no Sherman statue in Atlanta.
Atlanta is no longer a city in the antebellum Confederate flag South. It is a multi-racial melting pot that represents the best of what America can be when our mix of people put their heads together instead of banging them.
In a recent New York Times article on the Central Park Sherman statue, the Mayor’s office had this to say: “Feelings about the Civil War are mixed even among Atlanta’s increasingly rare natives — after all, the city has been home to one of the most thriving and affluent African-American communities in the nation. The city is the birthplace of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ambassador Andrew Young, Congressman John Lewis, Juanita Abernathy, the Rev. C. T. Vivian.”
One might think that a Sherman statue is just what Atlanta needs to address the clamor over slavery and civil rights?
Yet Atlanta demurs. Why?
It seems to me the city judges history with a long lens, making adjustments and changes as the local citizens feel appropriate and right for the time.
Putting up a statue of Sherman to commemorate his impact on African Americans would seem to be a good idea. For those with vengeance in mind, it would also serve as a reminder of the Southern culture that bred slavery, in a very Shermanesque fashion.
But the good people of this most reliably mixed race city have a way of coming together to make decisions that considers sensitivities. History is never about one thing but many things.
This is no different than taking down statues of Robert E. Lee from their resting place due to changes in historical views. It is time for concerned citizens to make sure the truth of history is represented in our public parks and spaces. But there are also sensitivities and we need time and a proper process to consider them.
When hooligans with masks destroy public property because they simply find it too tempting to stick a thumb in the eye of people who require more education, that’s misguided. Take the argument into the arena where we can debate and educate.
Sherman’s statue was finished by Saint-Gaudens in 1903, his last major work. It was said by the Saturday Evening Post after the 11-year effort, “Saint-Gaudens is one of those artists for whom it is worthwhile to wait.”
When we think of how much America still has to learn about its past, and while there is much to correct, the details need to be better understood by all, so it may be worthwhile to take some time, too.
Jeff Cunningham is an advocate for enlightened global leadership, which he calls the most valuable natural resource in the world.
He is a Professor at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and was the former publisher of Forbes Magazine, startup founder, digital content CEO, and ran an internet venture capital fund.
He travels the globe in search of iconic leaders. As an interviewer/host, he created a YouTube interview series, Iconic Voices, now co-produced by @Thunderbird, featuring mega moguls from Warren Buffett to JeffImmelt. His articles on leadership have been featured in the Arizona Republic, LinkedIn and Medium via JeffCunningham.com.
His career experience includes publisher of Forbes Magazine; founder of Directorship Magazine; CEO of Zip2 (founded by Elon Musk), Myway.com, and CareerTrack.com; venture partner with Schroders. He serves as a trustee of the McCain Institute and previously as a trustee of CSIS and Middle East Institute, and as an advisor to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
He has also been a board director of 10 public companies.