National Forgetting in the American South

White Innocence and the Racial Violence of Historic Places

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Kinkead, Conley, Daniel Campo, and Dillon Mahmoudi. 2024. “National Forgetting in the American South: White Innocence and the Racial Violence of Historic Places.” Sociální Studia / Social Studies 20 (2): 57–73. doi:10.5817/SOC2023-37713.
Sociální Studia / Social Studies open access


This paper came from Conley’s amazing Master’s Thesis, asking questions about whose memory is preserved in “our” landscapes. This paper was super fun to write and has important implications. There’s an interesting connection here to building re-use, but not from pressures of urban growth but from the perspective of de-industrialization.

Using a cultural landscape approach, this study examines all National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) sites in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, located in the southern United States. The NRHP recognizes sites representative of “our” national heritage by listing them on this registry. From analysis of these records and related archival materials and observations garnered from field visits to select historic sites in the parish, this study interrogates the officially-designated memorial landscape of the American South. We find that preservation and reuse practices of NRHP-sites have engaged in racialized “purposeful forgetting” (Roberts 2020) and reinforced power relations while enabling the appropriation of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) labor and culture.

In the parish, the NRHP has in some cases been used to perpetuate white supremacy and privilege, and in others, been powerless
or exercised too late to preserve vital Black cultural sites. Clearly, it is a weak tool to bring more just historical narratives to the public consciousness and serve as evocative and lively markers of lost culture.

Below is the Miller-Roy building in its heyday, and the Logtown Plantation, which is a historic site. Images from