Richmond’s Confederate monuments to be given to city’s Black History Museum

Confederate monuments that once dotted Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, will be handed over to the city’s Black History Museum and Cultural Center.

On Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney revealed plans to transfer ownership of the monuments, including the famous Robert E. Lee statue and its protest-art-covered granite pedestal, to the Black History Museum.

According to Northram and Stoney’s plan, the state government will transfer ownership of the statues to the city of Richmond. When that transfer is complete, Mayor Stoney will seek support from the Richmond City Council to donate those statues to the Black History Museum and its partner, The Valentine museum.

The two institutions will oversee a community-driven process to determine the best way to present these statues, according to Mayor Stoney’s office.

“Entrusting the future of these monuments and pedestals to two of our most respected institutions is the right thing to do,” Stoney said in a release.

“They will take the time that is necessary to properly engage the public and ensure the thoughtful future uses of these artifacts, while we re-imagine Monument Avenue, focus on telling our history fully and accurately in places like Shockoe Bottom and lift up residents throughout the city.”

Along with the Robert E. Lee statue, other Confederate monuments being given over to city museums are:

  • J.E.B. Stuart
  • Stonewall Jackson
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Matthew Fontaine Maury
  • Joseph Bryan
  • Fitzhugh Lee
  • Confederate Soldier and Sailors
  • The ceremonial cannon

The list doesn’t include the monument to A.P. Hill, as the Confederate general’s remains were reinterred in the statue’s base in 1892. The mayor’s office is in discussions with Hill’s descendants about relocating his remains.

According to a news release from Mayor Stoney’s office, the museums, with community input, should determine the interpretation and curation of the monuments. Doing so would remove the influence of government bureaucracy and politics, while also making room for philanthropic efforts to have a say in the future of the monuments.

“Our institution takes very seriously the responsibility to manage these objects in ways that ensure their origins and purpose are never forgotten: that is the glorification of those who led the fight to enslave African Americans and destroy the Union,” said Marland Buckner, interim executive director of Richmond’s Black History Museum, in the release.

“But we believe with this responsibility also comes opportunity — opportunities to deepen our understanding of an essential element of the American story: the expansion of freedom.”

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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