On January 18, 2021, CSS director Earl Lewis spoke on a panel, “Public Monuments and Our Histories: Reframing the Memories of Our Nation”, as part of the University of Michigan’s MLK Symposium. Dr. Lewis was joined by University of Michigan Assistant Professor of American Culture Kristin Hass and former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu; the panel was moderated by Christina Olsen, director of the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art.

Dr. Lewis opened the conversation with a reflection on the past year and on Dr. King’s legacy. “Typically we focus exclusively on the words and deeds of Martin Luther King, Jr., on this day; yet, this is no normal year. Twelve months ago at this time, we could not have fully conceived of the devastating effects the coronavirus would wreak on families, communities, and states across the nation. Nor have we fully comprehended the effects of prolonged isolation and quarantining on the economic livelihoods of many. Finally, while a constant in American life, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others put a spotlight on the ongoing search for racial justice in America. Those events and this day, sandwiched between a brutal election season, insurrection, and inauguration means that King’s vision for us seems to have all the more saliency.”

Watch the panel here: