Monuments to Absence

Cherokee Removal and the Contest over Southern Memory

By Andrew Denson

304 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3083-0
    Published: February 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3082-3
    Published: February 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3084-7
    Published: February 2017

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The 1830s forced removal of Cherokees from their southeastern homeland became the most famous event in the Indian history of the American South, an episode taken to exemplify a broader experience of injustice suffered by Native peoples. In this book, Andrew Denson explores the public memory of Cherokee removal through an examination of memorials, historic sites, and tourist attractions dating from the early twentieth century to the present. White southerners, Denson argues, embraced the Trail of Tears as a story of Indian disappearance. Commemorating Cherokee removal affirmed white possession of southern places, while granting them the moral satisfaction of acknowledging past wrongs. During segregation and the struggle over black civil rights, removal memorials reinforced whites' authority to define the South's past and present. Cherokees, however, proved capable of repossessing the removal memory, using it for their own purposes during a time of crucial transformation in tribal politics and U.S. Indian policy. In considering these representations of removal, Denson brings commemoration of the Indian past into the broader discussion of race and memory in the South.

About the Author

Andrew Denson teaches history at Western Carolina University.
For more information about Andrew Denson, visit the Author Page.


“Bridges studies of memory and southern culture. . . . This lively book deserves a place in college libraries. Highly recommended.”--Choice

“Denson’s work is thoroughly researched and merges elements of public, cultural, political, and Native histories to produce an impressively cogent and cohesive whole.”--H-Net Reviews

“Highlights the contrasting, competing, and changing stories of removal that non-Indians and Cherokees have told in different places and times.”--North Carolina Historical Review

"Subtle, powerful, and riveting, Monuments to Absence delves into why and how the historical event of the Cherokee Trail of Tears is remembered in the South. Andrew Denson offers readers a fascinating, stimulating, and wide-ranging treatment of the role of Cherokee removal in southern memory that will set new directional courses in Native American studies and southern history."--Tiya Miles, author of Tales from the Haunted South

"An enlightening and powerful study of Cherokee memory and removal, Monuments to Absence tells the complex racial and political story of how we remember the Trail of Tears."--Malinda Lowery, author of Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South