Library of Congress

U.S. Department of the Interior and National Park Service Guidance and Statements on Civil War Monuments

August 2017

National Park Service and Civil War Monuments:

Across the country, the National Park Service maintains and interprets monuments, markers, and plaques that commemorate and memorialize those who fought during the Civil War. These memorials represent an important, if controversial, chapter in our Nation’s history. The National Park Service is committed to preserving these memorials while simultaneously educating visitors holistically about the actions, motivations, and causes of the soldiers and states they commemorate. A hallmark of American progress is our ability to learn from our history.

Many commemorative works including monuments and markers were specifically authorized by Congress. In other cases, a monument may have preceded the establishment of a park, and thus could be considered a protected park resource and value. In either of these situations, legislation could be required to remove the monument, and the NPS may need to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act before removing a statue/memorial.

Still other monuments, while lacking legislative authorization, may have existed in parks long enough to qualify as historic features. A key aspect of their historical interest is that they reflect the knowledge, attitudes, and tastes of the people who designed and placed them. Unless directed by legislation, it is the policy of the National Park Service that these works and their inscriptions will not be altered, relocated, obscured, or removed, even when they are deemed inaccurate or incompatible with prevailing present-day values. The Director of the National Park Service may make an exception to this policy.

The NPS will continue to provide historical context and interpretation for all of our sites and monuments in order to reflect a fuller view of past events and the values under which they occurred.

National Park Service and First Amendment Activities:

The National Park Service has long recognized freedom of speech, press, religion and public assembly. National Parks and other public lands are the very embodiment of our democracy. First Amendment activities, such as demonstrations, at our national parks are activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The NPS adheres to the regulatory framework in 36 CFR 2.51. It is this provision that enables parks to accommodate First Amendment activity at designated spaces within the park, while also protecting park resources and values, and minimizing the impact on park visitors and park operations.

All requests for similar activities are treated equally. As long as permit criteria and requirements set forth by the park are met, no group wishing to assemble lawfully will be discriminated against or denied the right of assembly.

The safety of our employees and our visitors is our top priority. Park managers, in conjunction with local officials, engage in event planning to provide for public safety during permitted demonstrations.

Statements from Secretary Zinke:

Statement from Secretary Zinke regarding Charlottesville:

“The racism, bigotry, and hate perpetrated by violent white supremacist groups has no place in America. It does not represent what I spent 23 years defending in the United States military and what millions of people around the globe have died for. We must respond to hate with love, unity and justice. I fully support President Trump and Attorney General Sessions in uniting our communities and prosecuting the criminals to the fullest extent of the law.”

Secretary Zinke’s previous statements about monuments designated to Confederate soldiers:

Question: There's been a push recently by some to remove some war memorials, specifically Confederate-related items. What's your message to those that some are saying are attempting to erase or re-write history?

Answer: I think history’s important and on this battlefield as an example, what did the battle of Antietam bring us? One is that it was the deadliest battle in the history of our country, but also one can argue successfully that it also brought us the Emancipation Proclamation. So, there’s goodness that came out of this battlefield, but recognizing two sides fought, recognizing the historical significance of a change in our country. So, I'm an advocate of recognizing history as it is. Don't rewrite history. Understand it for what it is and teach our kids the importance of looking at our magnificent history as a country and why we are what we are.