Posted on August 22, 2022

Chicago Task Force Recommends Removal of Monuments, Including Christopher Columbus Statues

Gregory Pratt and Alice Yin, Chicago Tribune, August 19, 2022

Two years ago, as the city of Chicago reeled from a bloody battle between police officers and protesters over a prominent statue of Christopher Columbus, Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched an ambitious review of public monuments she said would be “a racial healing and historical reckoning project.”

This week, the Chicago Monuments Project finally released its long-delayed report recommending a series of new public memorials across the city and the removal of several statues that the commission flagged for honoring white supremacy or disrespecting Indigenous peoples.

Whether Lightfoot will follow the committee’s recommendations remains to be seen, however, as the mayor has promised to return Columbus statues to their former spots in the public square and has been critical of what she has said are efforts to rewrite history.

Amid spirited public debate about race in America in 2020, Columbus came under renewed scrutiny as statues across the U.S. were pulled down and local governments stopped celebrating the holiday in his name. Though Chicago was one of the cities where the monuments were lifted, Lightfoot at first resisted their removal and insisted afterward that the Grant Park statue should eventually return.


Though the commission’s work was broader than Columbus, those statues will likely generate the most controversy and conversation. Still, Lightfoot’s task force recommended taking down several other monuments that negatively depict Indigenous people. One monument that should be removed, the commission said, is a statue honoring the Supreme Court chief justice who presided over Plessy v. Ferguson, which enshrined segregation.

The commission recommended removing the Jacques Marquette-Louis Jolliet Memorial because it “reinforces stereotypes about American Indians and glorifies a complicated and painful history of Western expansion. It features a cowering American Indian, following submissively in the footsteps of Marquette.”

A plaque honoring early Chicago settler John Kinzie should also be removed, the report said, because it “openly prioritizes whiteness and denies the existence of Native peoples,” and earlier settler Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. For similar reasons, the commission said the “Jean Baptiste Beaubien Plaque” should go.

Bridge reliefs on the DuSable Bridge, including The Defense, The Pioneers, Discoverers and Regeneration should also be taken down because they show American Indians “as merely a foil to help define the heroic acts and qualities of colonizing forces,” though that would be challenging as they’re built into the physical structure.

The report also recommends taking down tablets dedicated to explorers Robert Cavelier De La Salle, Jolliet and Marquette. One of the plaques, it says, highlights “the first white men to pass through the Chicago River” and “explicitly voice(s) the ideology of white supremacy.”

The proposal also seeks to revive debate over a monument to Italo Balbo, which the commission decries as “a gift of the fascist government of Italy.”


The panel recommended the city award $50,000 grants to artists for development of ideas, including monuments honoring Pilsen Latinos, Mahalia Jackson, the Mother Jones Heritage Project, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable and Kitihawa, his wife and a local Potawatomi woman. In addition, the city should support monuments for the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial, the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, a “visibility project” focused on Black women and girls and a “community-led monument to victims of gun violence in Chicago.”


The city’s collection of Lincoln monuments that are up for further review include the Standing Lincoln, Seated Lincoln, Lincoln Rail Splitter and Young Lincoln statues. The Civil War-era president hailing from Illinois has been scrutinized by some for his treatment of Indigenous people, which includes authorizing a mass execution of Dakota Sioux people.

Other monuments that the city wants to reexamine are in tribute to Gen. John Logan, Benjamin Franklin, Leif Ericson, Robert Cavelier De La Salle and former presidents Ulysses S. Grant and George Washington. Some works depicting Indigenous people, including The Alarm, A Signal of Peace and Bull and Indian Maiden, also fall in that list.

Lastly, markers of historic events such as the Illinois Centennial Monument, The Republic, Haymarket Riot Monument, Indian Boundary Lines Plaque, Marquette Campsite Plaque and Chicago River Plaque could also get another look.