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Monumental Crossroads: The Fight for Southern Heritage  cover image

Monumental Crossroads: The Fight for Southern Heritage 2018

Recommended with Reservations

Distributed by Gander Yonder Pictures
Produced by Tim Van den Hoff
Directed by Tim Van den Hoff
Streaming, 54 mins

Political Science; Race Relations; U.S. History

Date Entered: 02/24/2021

Reviewed by Russell A. Hall, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Penn State Erie

Monumental Crossroads chronicles a 6000-mile trip through the American South to hear both sides of the contentious issue of Confederate monuments. Many hundreds of these monuments and memorials to the soldiers, officers, and politicians of the pro-slavery South are scattered throughout the United States. To some observers these monuments are simply a way of remembering the “heritage” of their forebears. To other observers these monuments are an ongoing public demonstration of white supremacy.

Monumental Crossroads is a film with its heart in the right place. Producer/director Tim Van den Hoff wants to let the interviewees present their positions on this issue. Even though the filmmaker sometimes prods the interviewees with difficult questions, this neutral position is problematic. Van den Hoff clearly has in-depth knowledge of the American Civil War and the continuing problems of the white supremacist ideology that went along with that war (particularly the Jim Crow era, but as the film shows, clearly still alive today). Yet Van den Hoff buries this extremely necessary explication beneath the interviews and beautiful cinematography. As is noted very late in the film, the decontextualization of the cultural and political (not to mention economic) reasons for the secession of the South leaves a viewpoint that only permits discussion of the bravery and sacrifice of the men fighting the war. Elsewhere, an interviewee speaks of Southern heritage as sweet tea, pearls, sitting on the front porch, and eating grits. One wonders why then there are no monuments to sweet tea, but there are many monuments to Confederate generals. Van den Hoff brings up these points but does it so subtly as to be nearly invisible in the film. In this age of “fake news,” we know that people will search for any rationale that will confirm their existing biases. Unfortunately, Monumental Crossroads gives a platform for people espousing rationales to wipe away white supremacist ideologies as a legacy of the Civil War. That said, there are excellent interviews with individuals who explain how those monuments are a daily reminder of a culture of white supremacy based on chattel slavery that was so deeply ingrained that it caused a large section of the nation to take up arms against the government. These interviews are all at the beginning of the film and could quite possibly be forgotten in the wake of the pro-Confederate “heritage” interviews later in the film.

Monumental Crossroads is recommended with substantial reservations. The film could be used in courses about the Civil War, the legacy of the Civil War in the United States, the U.S. Civil Rights movement, general courses about race in America, or even for a specific look at the politics of a certain segment of the conservative South in the 21st Century. However, the instructors of these classes should take great care to lay in the context of the interviews given in this film. The myth of the Lost Cause needs no more supporters.

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.