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So, What about all of these Monuments & Statues?

Cover Photo: The unveiling of the soldiers and sailors monument (1894)

While Church Hill People’s News isn’t going to wade into those waters your local museum is taking a closer look! The Valentine has a new exhibit that just opened on July 4th. It will be an exploration of Richmond’s use of public monuments and their historical context.

From The Valentine:

Monumental: Richmond’s Monuments (1607-2018)

Jul 4, 2018 – Jan 2, 2019

Since Christopher Newport’s expedition planted a cross on the banks of the James River in 1607, Richmonders have marked the landscape to reflect their collective values. Monumental will look at the historical context of public monuments in Richmond, and the Valentine is excited to build on its role as a space to engage in meaningful, sometimes uncomfortable discussions about what we have chosen to commemorate and what we have chosen to forget.

You can find out more info on The Valentine’s exhibits, hours, and admission by visiting their website BY CLICKING HERE.

I for one know that this is going to be on my must-see list.

Thanks to RWM for this tip!
The Atlantic has examined this from many viewpoints and through recorded and broadly accepted historical fact. Here is their hub for all the published stories and opinions pieces from their series on it.


Mike 07/09/2018 at 8:41 AM

Looks good to me.

Aaron James Sawyer 07/09/2018 at 8:44 AM

Just tear them all down so we can be a normal city with no problems, culture, or art. People will move right on to the next thing (i.e. _______ republican is HITLER) and not care. Taxes will increase to remove the statutes…. and the taxes will increase to fill the void of the public value that art brings.

Aaron James Sawyer 07/09/2018 at 8:46 AM

Their existence alone has inspired thousands to learn about their meaning and develop their own ideas…. but surely removing them and snuffing out all history or complicated ideas is what the people want – to be soft and unchallenged…. as a 17 year war is fought by the real people that matter.

cg 07/09/2018 at 9:35 AM

See also the website from the American Civil War Museum

Mike 07/09/2018 at 9:47 AM

Good point Aaron.

Sharon Pederson 07/09/2018 at 10:36 AM

Went to see the exhibition the day it opened! Is fabulous! Also check out the front page article in today’s Times Dispatch about it. Something to appeal to EVERYONE and will get folks thinking and talking and, hopefully, actively involved. Thanks Valentine!!

jean Mcdaniel 07/09/2018 at 11:15 AM

If you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. This quote is not original to me but I fully believe it. Those that feel that these monuments are a reminder to an unplesant time in our history have every right to their feelings, however, the answer is NOT to rewrite history, ignore what happened, or to put a spin on history.

It may suprise people to know that I remember the home for confederate widows (it was behind the VMFA) having residents. The building is still there but of course has been repurposed. What’s my point? This is not ancient history. It is fairly recent and still has a palpable taste in the mouth for many. To attempt to erase history is a big mistake!

Educational additions to these “monuments” giving a more rounded view seems like a better approach than the knee jerk reaction of just tearing them down.

By the way, slavery is well and thriving in Africa, China and the Middle East TODAY!

The U.....nion Hill 07/09/2018 at 11:50 AM

Why can’t the City focus their efforts on building the Lumpkin’s Jail Museum instead of tearing down monuments?

Eric S. Huffstutler 07/09/2018 at 1:34 PM

It is history and tearing down monuments doesn’t change it. Richmond will always be the Confederate capitol yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

The idea of wanting to take them down is that it honors those who endorsed slavery and they do not want to glorify it by being “in your face” about it. But on the other hand, what is the proposed Slave Museum and Trail doing? It is a two-way street. Next, people will be wanting to tear down the Confederate White House or even Monticello that Thomas Jefferson lived and so on… since people want to sweep history under the rug (hence name changes).

I still stand that if there is a “context’ issue then, simply place historical highway markers next to them with the proper context and leave the monuments alone.

This is an issue that had died down and life rolls on. Not sure why the museum wants to stir it up again?

Will Hall 07/09/2018 at 2:14 PM

Take them down, especially the monument of Jefferson Davis. These people were trash, masquerading as heroes. The city has made leaps and bounds,well why not continue by removing these statues? I believe that the statue of Jefferson Davis will be removed before stoney first term has been completed, since it has already been recommended to be removed

Jason S 07/09/2018 at 4:28 PM

Disclaimer: I have no mercy to extend to the lazy ignorance that’s being spewed here or the weak, clumsy delivery of that ignorance.

With that in mind, it seems pretty clear to me that the vast majority of the comments on this thread so far lack common sense and a basic understanding of the context or the counter-arguments.

Arron Sawyer, you don’t sound very logical, but if you can cobble together a coherent argument from those ramblings then I’d be happy to engage it.

Eric, I usually just shake my head and leave your nonsense for the masses to disassemble. We both know that happens frequently. I’ll make an exception on this one, however, since you seem to want to debate whether a museum honoring the victims of the slave trade is different than a long stretch of statues depicting secessionists who perpetrated the institution of slavery.

Your standard “slippery slope” argument isn’t a winner, just the flailing of a lazy mind trapped in the Lost Cause narrative. I encourage you to debate that slippery slope position though, because the rest of your ideas (putting hiiiiighway markers as context) are hardly worth any more than an eye-roll and a scoff.

But nothing you typed into your computer is more foolish than when you said “This is an issue that had died down and life rolls on. Not sure why the museum wants to stir it up again?” You somehow manage to expose your ignorance and fear while at the same time contradicting your basic premise on the value of maintaining “history”.

Is there no one on this forum that can logically debate the sordid fixation on confederate statues in Richmond, or will I be left to dispatch these weak, cornball arguments that’ve limply flopped around here so often?

Jean McDaniel, when you refer to centuries of slavery as an “unpleasant time” and state that removing the statues would be to “rewrite history, ignore what happened, or to put a spin on history”, I think you’re setting yourself up pretty well for a lesson on irony. I’d be happy to explain what you’re not seeing when you walk around with those blinders on.

If anyone thinks I’m going too hard right now, then that pleases me greatly. I hope that someone tries to defend the flimsy arguments that have been laid out so far. I even more so look forward to someone with a relatively intelligent opinion explaining why these monuments belong as a linchpin of our community.

Pro-tip: don’t hide behind “tourism”.

Dubois2 07/09/2018 at 6:41 PM

More monuments.

Mostly, I want to see Harriet Tubman, American Hero, standing on the grass, as tall as Lee is on horse and pedestal.

And sculptors would get paid to make it, and tourists would pay to come and see it.

I have no love for Jefferson Davis’s particular memory, and I respect that as history slowly piles up, we do need to let go of pieces in the public square from time to time, but when we do, can we please do it well? The Arthur Ashe statue is terrible—

Mike 07/09/2018 at 7:05 PM

Will Hall, you are acting as if life become so much better for blacks up North after the War. These monuments aren’t going anywhere. And your crocodile tears are only a diversion from your devastating defeat in 2016.

SA Chaplin 07/09/2018 at 9:20 PM

@Jason S — You seem to think these monuments are some sort of homage to slavery. Why do you think that? The American Civil War was a war of secession just as was the war we all call the Revolutionary War. The soldiers –the vast majority of whom did not own slaves– were fighting invaders. And the North was not fighting with a goal toward ending slavery. You seem to be a few pages short in your history book.

Eric S. Huffstutler 07/10/2018 at 12:39 AM

@14 SA Chaplin. The Civil War was about slavery. Richmond, being at the heart of it, was the Confederate Capitol. The statues were erected as an homage to key Confederate leaders of the war about slavery. And built during a time when there were veterans still alive and gathered on a regular basis in town to celebrate their service achievements and memories. Segregation was the norm… and still exists today but self-imposed. And so, these statues represent people who fought on the side of pro-slavery.

But, should they be torn down? No. They don’t bother anyone nor say anything and haven’t for nearly 100 years while blending into the background of daily 21st-century lives. They are symbolic inanimate works of art and a part of our landscape and historical tourist attractions. True, the reasoning for their existence may have changed but it is still a part of history. You also might as well remove their portraits in buildings and museums or in textbooks as to remove the statues. What next, desecrate their graves if they have busts or statues on them? Or dissenter all of the Confederate soldier’s graves at the cemeteries who fought for the cause and may have owned slaves? My great-grandfather believed in and practiced Eugenics… what Hitler used as a basis for his Arian philosophy. Does that make me a Nazi today? No. No more than a hunk of metal and stone that represents a historical event that happened 153 years ago and we co-existed with the past 100 years, should all of the sudden be an issue today.

With the statues of Lee, Stuart, Davis, Jackson, and Maury, all but Maury were slave owners. Stuart owned only 2 while the Confederacy president, Davis, had upwards to 74. Some felt they were Sanctioned by God to be own or it was a Merciful Provance to educate them while in their possession. Maury did not believe in slavery and tried to come up with a way to move them out of the states. But being a Virginian, he stayed true to his birth state and served as a Confederate. (On a side note, the man who built, owned, lived and died in our house and built the Wills store, owned 9 slaves.)

Here is the first paragraph on Wikipedia:

” The American Civil War (also known by other names) was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865. As a result of the long-standing controversy over slavery, war broke out in April 1861, when Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, shortly after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated. The nationalists of the Union proclaimed loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States, who advocated for states’ rights to expand slavery. “

Jason S 07/10/2018 at 12:53 AM

Thank you for your genuine, heartfelt comment, SA Chaplin.

I agree with you that the American Civil War was one of secession. And to answer your question: yes, I also believe that the monuments are an homage to the institution of slavery. Here’s why:

The reason that the southern states seceded was to maintain slavery and expand it into new territories. If you’ve read any of the Ordinances of Secession for the slave-holding states, you know that Confederate leaders were unapologetically clear about this at the time. Mississippi just straight up states it as the reason in their secession document:

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.”

South Carolina and many other states go into great detail about protecting and preserving slavery in their documents. The Confederate Constitution lists slave-holding as a fundamental right. Even Virginia’s ordinance of secession, passed at the Virginia Convention of 1861 here in Richmond, references the “the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States” as the reason for no longer adhering to the Constitution. So for this, and for many other reasons, slavery is the first thing I think of during any confederate statue discussion.

After the Civil War, apologists began inventing other justification for secession as part of the Reconstruction era. Things like the notion that the south was “repelling invaders”. It must sound much cooler to you that way I suppose. Anyhoo, it wasn’t until the late 1920s that these statues were erected as an homage to the generals and politicians who wrote the secession documents and vehemently defended the ownership of other humans.

You mentioned the individual soldiers who fought on the side of the confederacy. I’m open to discussing that topic. But the vast, overwhelming majority of the monuments do not honor those soldiers. They honor the slave-owning generals and politicians.

Based on your comment, you seem to believe that these monuments are somehow not homage to slavery. To that I can only pose to you the same, fair question that you asked of me – Why would you think that?

Eric S. Huffstutler 07/10/2018 at 1:35 AM

@11 Jason S

Rolling eyes at my suggestion about placing a highway marker with “context” to the narratives etched in stone? You must have forgotten that Mayor Levar Stoney, almost exactly a year ago, was all for keeping the statues and started a commission to look into ways to provide “context” and interpretation of the statues. I figured the markers would be a cheap and easy solution without damaging the original statue.

@13 Mike, I doubt the monuments will go anywhere either if for nothing more than costs. It would take millions to remove and relocate them, money the city doesn’t apparently have (since I have been fighting to get a sidewalk replaced the past 10-years). And if by chance they are taken down, answer this. What “white” figures in Richmond-Virginia history will replace them? Not being racist but just citing the obvious. This isn’t only a black city but there also a need for white representation as well in statues and art around the city, which is currently lacking (other than the Confederate statues). Just curious.

And who is going to pay that bill? Where are you going to find classically trained stone cutters to build grand and ornate bases? Or artists that can capture likenesses in bronze on a huge scale?

I agree, the Arthur Ashe statue is horrid, paltry (small) and cheap looking. Has no artistic grandeur but looks chaotic and last minute and belongs more in someone’s private garden than on a Boulevard.

jean Mcdaniel 07/10/2018 at 6:17 AM

Jason, the use of the phrase, “unplesant times” is a swipe at the very common and very much understood (at least in the South) use of the term “the recent unpleasantness” to refer to the Civil War. The family farm was ravaged several times by maurauding armies.

As for having you “explain” what I am not seeing, no thanks!

Your verbege indicating total eye rolling, scoffing, lazy ignorance dismissal of opinions posted here that do not measure up to your intellectual standards do not make me want to “engage ” with you no matter how “happy” it would make you.

SA Chaplin 07/10/2018 at 8:50 AM

It is not possible to lay out the entire history of the American Civil War in a short post. (And I am no expert.) True, secession (at least the first wave) was about expanding slavery into the territories (among other things). But the expansion of slavery was more about maintaining political power than promoting the institution itself. The war itself was not a war aimed at ending slavery, but a war against the right of secession. Even Lincoln repeatedly said he would abide by slavery forever if it would preserve the Union.

But here is the bottom line. We are all a bunch of suckers.  We have been taken in, —duped by a small band of knuckle-dragging knuckleheads who believe in white supremacy.  How have they duped us?  They have co-opted (that is, stolen) historic symbols for their own twisted purposes.  For 50+ years, all I ever saw when I looked at a Confederate battle flag or monument was a symbol of a failed attempt at secession. If we give in to this —this co-opting of historic symbols— we are all suckers.

Jason S 07/10/2018 at 9:38 AM

Jean – ok, cool with me.

Eric – You threw a lot out there. Whew. Reel it in, man. When you say things like the monuments “don’t bother anyone nor say anything and haven’t for nearly 100 years” I… just… don’t know what we’re talking about here. Yes, I’m familiar with Mayor’s Stoney’s position and have read the commissions report. Your argument that white people are under-represented in statues across the city is just… Nevermind. Your posts diverge too far from basic facts and contradict themselves enough.

You’ve stated that you’re focus is finding a cheap and easy way to solve this. My focus is on taking a look at what these men (who we’ve literally put on pedestals) stood for. And then deciding whether, as a community, we stand for the same things.

That’s why I’m really excited to check out this exhibit at the Valentine. They always have great sources/documents/artifacts in their collection and can probably tell us all a lot more than we think we know. I’m really glad they’ve taken on this topic.

bill 07/10/2018 at 10:18 AM

#17 and what world are you in? stoney kicked off the political campaign to get rid of all of the monuments by creating this fake commission to study context. the members/citizens that thought it was about context were ambushed. the race outrage card is easy to play. now for stoney it is all about “mission accomplished” and everyone has forgotten about failing/shabby schools/public housing.

Will Hall 07/10/2018 at 11:36 AM

@mike What defeat? What are you talking about? You lost me. I don’t like the statues because of what they represent. Those statues represent white supremacy, but are masqueraded as heroes. Jefferson Davis wasn’t a hero. Plain and simple. A hero to who? He said that the black race was given to the white race as a gift from God because of there ability to work the fields in the sun. You call that a hero? Take him down Mr. Stoney.

RWM 07/10/2018 at 12:26 PM

The Atlantic has examined this from many viewpoints and through recorded and broadly accept historical fact. Here is their hub for all the published stories and opinions pieces from their series on it.

Jason S 07/10/2018 at 12:40 PM

I’m glad that we agree that Southern secession was about expanding slavery.

However the claim that the civil war was about maintaining political power begs the obvious question: political power to do what? The primary sources tell us clearly that it was to enforce the fugitive slave act, force interstate slave transit and spread slavery into new jurisdictions. Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right.

Your position is that there is just a small band of knuckleheads out there who believe in white supremacy that are duping us all. I’m telling you that the leaders of the confederacy were those very people. The men who the statues depict are those very people. They fervently believed in white supremacy, just read those articles/ordinances of secession. Better yet, read the Cornerstone Speech by confederate vice president Alexander Stephens right before the war broke out. He unequivocally states the leaderships support of white supremacy and defends the institution of slavery as the cornerstone of southern society and the reason for secession.

We can talk Lincoln, but the quote you’re referencing (1862 letter to New York Tribune) actually provides plenty of counter-arguments to your position. You should read the whole thing.

Eric S. Huffstutler 07/10/2018 at 1:32 PM

@20 Jason S. What I speak is NOT just my own views but those of friends of ours, even black friends who say leave them stay. But as far as my comment of white representation, you did not answer the question. Where is it in the city? Other than the Confederate statues, what other statues or murals around town do you see that represent white leaders or historical figures or even scenes? And why is that there aren’t any? It is only a matter of fact.

And if you believe that the mayor is pulling the wool over people’s eyes about his stance concerning the monuments or even a bait and switch then all I can say is what is he doing so about other things in the city? You voted him in so must have investigated his background and track record… right?

Jason S 07/10/2018 at 3:33 PM

I don’t think that these are your opinions alone. The conversation of who we venerate with monuments is happening all over the country. That’s why I’m excited to see the Valentine’s exhibition and get their curators’ take on it. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot.

Your other question, where might one possibly find statues/art/representation of white folks in this city other than Confederate monuments… I can only suggest that get out of the house more often.

Start at the Capital building, check out the rotunda with it’s statues and busts. Swing by capital square, where you’ll find statues of Henry, Jefferson, Lewis, Marshall, Mason, etc. Go see one of the Edgar Allen Poe statues, check out the museum scene. There are too many places to list here. Your question isn’t just uninformed, it’s also loaded with falsehoods and assumptions. You can’t say something is a matter of fact when it’s provably false.

I don’t know what you’re talking about in the last paragraph. All that I’ve said about our mayor is that I’m familiar with his position and I’ve read the commission’s report.

Melinda 07/10/2018 at 5:10 PM

Have no problem with having statues remembering soldiers (and sailors)– conned into fighting and dying ostensibly for their “homeland” and families by wealthy landowners and politicians. Tear down the monument to Jefferson Davis. He and his peers were culpable and morally corrupt. Perhaps he could be replaced on that pedestal by a representational statue of an African American and/or install statues of African-American males and females (and possibly children) between the surrounding pillars. (As for the monuments of generals on Monument Avenue, I don’t care… but the horses are nice. Probably move them to appropriate Civil War museums and cemeteries.)

Eric S. Huffstutler 07/11/2018 at 3:41 AM

@26 Jason S… I guess my statement was a bit vague about the lack of other statues (but the lack of mural art stands) and knew about the others you mentioned along with one you didn’t at Capitol Square… Washington. But for the most part these are concentrated in one spot and in a no traffic area where tourists can’t just drive to them, park, and casually take pictures. And when I talk about possible monument replacements on Monument Ave, I am talking grand scale like the 60-foot tall ones there now. Washington seems to be the only non-confederate grand scale monument in Richmond?

There was a “Style” article from last year that spoke about other aspects which will hurt Richmond if they are taken down. Keep in mind that when the oldest of them, Robert E. Lee, was erected in 1890, it was in a field and Monument Ave nor the houses existed then. They state “The monuments were partly a real estate tactic to encourage westward development, and now they anchor the high-end property values of the avenue.” also… “And Monument Avenue, site of the city’s Easter on Parade celebration (and the race route), is an architectural and tourism juggernaut.” To me, this means that people who live along Monument Avenue will be up in arms about lost property value and the city losing revenue from tourism.

Another question arises. Even though the statues sit on city property (Lee is on state property), they were built with private money and so, who are actually the true owners (and descendants) and what are their opinions and responsibilities?

Also, these properties have real estate value. The last I looked, the Lee memorial alone is valued at over $1-million by city assessment and we know that is a “city” tax value and not a value used for insurance replacement or sale, which is higher value.

Going back to context, apparently, my idea of historic markers was considered in plaque format and this is an example they came up with for the Lee statue.

Eric S. Huffstutler 07/11/2018 at 4:07 AM

To clarify, the article eludes to the fact that over the years, the city has maintained cutting the grass and cleaning graffiti off of these monuments but apparently there is still a privately owned concern that could turn convoluted and nasty if there were serious damage to them or if brought to court. But, has anyone actually stepped forward that we know about?

Jason S 07/11/2018 at 12:17 PM

So your position now is that the State Capitol – Thomas Jefferson’s “Temple to Democracy” and one of the most visited and consequential spaces in our city… does not count because it isn’t high-traffic enough. Your arguments are devolving into entitled and tiresome whining.

The defense of the monument avenue statues for the tourism and property values that they generate is one that I find callous and problematic. Does the ability to make money off of something serve alone as justification to do that thing? In my opinion it certainly should not. Hence, the Civil War. If I told you that lining our city with statues of foreign autocrats would bring in millions of dollars of tourism revenue, would you sign off on that? Probably not. You’d probably want to discuss what those people did that was worthy of enshrining and making tourism money from.

Do you realize that substantial portions of the population have no interest in “Easter on Parade” because of where the procession takes place? Have you considered that there are countless potential tourists who wouldn’t think of spending money or hosting events in Richmond because our city is known as a hub for venerating insolent, violent, slave-owning rapists.

Consider the possibility that maybe we’re generating the wrong kind of tourism with the statues. Just because you can make money off of things, doesn’t make those things right.

Little historical markers providing context to a road of HUMONGOUS confederate statues is a silly notion. Not as comical as your suggestion of highway markers, but comical nonetheless.

Bryan Brodie 07/12/2018 at 11:13 AM

All the context you will ever need: #TheSouthLost

Historical revisionists need to get over themselves.

I suggested in a letter to the TD that the confederate statues be painted black. that way you can leave them up and make a ‘statement’ at the same time.

I’d prefer not to paint them black, but I prefer painting them black to removing them completely.

Citizen 07/12/2018 at 4:07 PM

There are several preservations groups on Facebook and they are not all run by Confederate romantics. Most people I know think the they are part of what makes Richmond unique.


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