What should be the fate of the large statue commemorating John Mason that adorns the Connecticut State Capitol Building? He’s a historic figure and founder of the Connecticut Colony. He also left a legacy of violence and murder, with more than 400 Indigenous people, including 175 women and children, killed under his command.
And whether to let his statue stand or remove it has engaged a debate from leading experts, historians, relatives of Mason, and the Indigenous community across the state.
UConn’s Manisha Sinha was asked to lend her expertise to the situation:
Manisha Sinha, a University of Connecticut professor of 19th century U.S. history, said she is a veteran of debates about the fate of statues memorializing Confederate leaders as well as founding fathers who owned slaves.
“I have advocated for the taking down of statues that commemorate Confederate leaders and generals, who I see as traitors to the American republic, fighting for the worst cause in American history, as General Grant put it, in the cause of human bondage,” Sinha said. “On the other hand, I have opposed the taking down of statues of some of our founding fathers, revolutionary figures who did not defend slavery as a positive good.”
Sinha said history can be complex, and great men of history can be flawed.
“The Mason massacre is not a complex story,” she said. “It was a sheer massacre of non-combatants and of women, children and elders. We cannot excuse this by pointing to internecine warfare among Native Americans.”
Mason’s statue is not necessary to teach history, she said.
“I think it is high time that you think of removing John Mason’s statue,” Sinha said. “It cannot be contextualized. We do not remember history by statues, especially not in the monumental 19th century forms. We actually end up commemorating people, making them heroic.”
November 18 – The CT Mirror
This is a sensitive and very important topic as America reconciles with its past and moves forward as a country. And, if you are a journalist covering this topic, then let our experts help with your in-depth coverage and questions.
Manisha Sinha is the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut and the author of "The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition." She is an expert in the era of America during the 19th Century and available to speak with media regarding this topic – simply click on her icon now to arrange an interview today.