This foundation just committed $250 million to overhaul America's monuments

A construction crew takes down the statue of Confederate Calvary General JEB Stuart, along Monument Avenue on July 7, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation on Wednesday announced it is dedicating $250 million over the next five years to help "transform the way our country's histories are told in public spaces."

(CNN)The nation's largest humanities philanthropy is pledging $250 million over the next five years to help "transform the way our country's histories are told in public spaces."

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation on Wednesday announced "The Monuments Project," which aims to build new monuments, while also contextualizing and, even relocating, existing ones nationwide.
The news comes after a summer of protests that called attention to racial injustice. These demonstrations also reinvigorated interest in another issue: should statues and monuments of controversial figures be taken down?
    The debate on whether to keep or tear down controversial monuments is anything but new. In fact, it has been a part of the national conversation since Dylann Roof killed nine African Americans in a South Carolina church in 2015 to start a race war.
      But the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in May prompted the removal -- by protesters in some cases and city leaders in others -- of contentious statues that have riled some residents for decades, if not longer.
      "Monuments, memorials, and other commemorative spaces convey both individual narratives and national values," said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander in a statement. "They shape the histories of who we are and influence ongoing discussion about which people in our society are considered worth celebrating and remembering.
      The project comes after the Mellon Foundation, which was created 50 years ago, shifted its mission in June to prioritize social justice in all of its grantmaking.
        The new initiative also broadens the Mellon Foundation's definition of commemorative spaces to not only include memorials, historical markers, and public statues but also storytelling spaces such as museums and art installations, the foundation said in its release.
        The first major grant from the $250 million Monuments Project will go to Monument Lab -- a Philadelphia-based public art and history studio that "cultivates and facilitates critical conversations around the past, present, and future of monuments," according to its website.
        The studio will receive a three-year, $4 million contribution.
        Since Alexander took the helm of the Mellon Foundation in 2018, the organization has given out $25 million "to help diversify the American public history and memory landscape" through several projects including building of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.
        The Monuments Project has garnered praise from filmmaker Ava DuVernay as well as former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
          Landrieu oversaw the controversial removal of four Confederate monuments from New Orleans in 2017.
          "Unlike when most Confederate monuments and memorials were first erected as symbols of white supremacy," Landrieu said in a statement, "this moment in our country's history gives us an opportunity to be intentional about how to create public spaces and public art that bring people together."