The American Historical Association (AHA) is calling for renewed "awareness" of history in the debate over whether to tear down Confederate monuments, saying that "a monument is not history itself."
"To remove a monument, or to change the name of a school or street, is not to erase history, but rather to alter or call attention to a previous interpretation of history," the group said in a statement this week.
"A monument is not history itself; a monument commemorates an aspect of history, representing a moment in the past when a public or private decision defined who would be honored in a community’s public spaces."
A number of cities have already removed or are planning to remove statues of Confederate figures from their parks and public spaces, following a national uproar in the wake of a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the removal of a memorial to Gen. Robert E. Lee.
"Confederate monuments are 'imperative to informed public debate,' " the AHA said, noting their history of being used to intimidate African-Americans.
"To remove such monuments is neither to 'change' history nor 'erase' it."
The AHA pushed back against President Trump's comments that the removal of Confederate statues was a slippery slope toward tearing down statues of America's founding fathers.
...can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
"Decisions to remove memorials to Confederate generals and officials who have no other major historical accomplishment does not necessarily create a slippery slope towards removing the nation’s founders, former presidents, or other historical figures whose flaws have received substantial publicity in recent years," the association said.