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After a long, heated debate, change became the chosen path for Richmond today. According to the Monument Avenue Commission, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney officially recommended the removal of the Jefferson Davis Monument today from Monument Avenue.
“Of all the statues, this one is most unabashedly Lost Cause [sic] in its design and sentiment,” the commissioners wrote in the report.
The board includes Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum, and Sarah Driggs, author of “Richmond’s Monument Avenue,” among others who look to direct the River City away from the ‘lost cause’ narrative many of these monuments represent. And with these monuments having origins in the Confederate ‘lost cause’ mythology and Unite The Right 2.0 coming up in August, the commission came as a much needed response for these controversial monuments.
After nearly one year of intensive study by the ten person commission, the group produced a 117 page report considering the future of Richmond’s Confederate statues, opening the floor to options including removal or relocation of the Confederate statues into a museum, or somewhere with proper context.
“In addition to taking on the responsibility of explaining the monuments that currently exist, I have also asked the commission to look into and solicit public opinion on changing the face of Monument Avenue by adding new monuments that would reflect a broader, more inclusive story of our city,” said Stoney in a statement one year ago. “That is our goal.”
The yearlong review examining the statues originally created to “determine how best to reconcile a particular landscape viewed as both sacred and profane,” is now figuring that for many of the statues, removal is the best option. Riding off the recent change to the Barack Obama Elementary school last month, this is the first of many necessary reforms to a city that has never truly healed.
The report also addresses the monuments of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson, President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis and Confederate commander Matthew Fontaine Maury with short term changes that will add context to the statues, such as proper signage. They will also consider the opening or expansion into a museum exhibit, where the monuments may be put into proper context that reflects the newly inclusive historical significance the city wants to promote.
The commission’s site currently offers an open forum for public discussion, but is also developing a mobile app and new film and video that looks to rewire the proper narrative about Monument Avenue that is “consistent and historically accurate.”