Years ago, in Toledo, Spain, I saw a beautiful stone Franciscan monastery, the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, which had a surprising detail. On the wall facing the street, cascades of chains and manacles are stapled to the masonry. I was told these are the chains of prisoners who were freed at the end of a war. While the manacles were intended as both a memorial and trophy, their story isn’t simple.
The war expelled Muslims from Spain; the monastery was commissioned by Queen Isabella — and this is the same Isabella who supplied Christopher Columbus with ships and who deported Jews and confiscated their property. I wonder who actually worked to construct the monastery. Those chains piqued my curiosity and led to learning more about a troubled history.
So, here is a suggestion for the Pack Square obelisk. Displaying chains and manacles on the sides of the monument would be a similar thought-provoker. To explain the sight would be to consider our local history of slavery and convict labor.
Another thought: Hand tools used for tunneling, quarrying and masonry, like those probably used by builders of the monument itself, could be displayed on it, too. It might even include a hammer-driven rock drill.
— Michael Garner