In Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of American Public Monuments, Professor Erin Thompson traces the turbulent history of American monuments and its abundant ironies, starting with the enslaved man who helped make the statue of Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol, and explores the surprising motivations behind such contemporary flashpoints as the toppling of a statue of Columbus at the Minnesota State Capitol. Combining gripping narratives with legal, political, and historical analysis, the book aims to give readers the context they need to consider the fundamental question: Whose voices must be heard and whose pain must remain private?
Erin L. Thompson is a professor of art crime at John Jay College and holds a Ph.D. in art history and a J.D. from Columbia. She is an expert in the deliberate destruction of art, analyzing how this destruction has sometimes harmed and sometimes benefited communities. Her first book, Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors (Yale University Press) was named an NPR Best Book of 2016. Her second book, Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of American Public Monuments, was published by Norton in February 2022. Thompson has spoken about monuments controversies at Oxford, Cambridge, and the Carter Presidential Library, among other venues, and has given interviews about the topic to the New Yorker, New York Times, The Today Show, All Things Considered and many more.