Monument Avenue Commission: Remove Jefferson Davis Monument, Reinterpret Others Honoring Confederacy
Mark Robinson, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 2, 2018
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s Monument Avenue Commission recommended the removal of the Jefferson Davis Monument from Monument Avenue and the addition of signage to the other four statues honoring the Confederacy, according to a report released Monday.
After gathering public input for 11 months, the 10-person commission recommended reinterpreting the four of the statues with permanent signage in the short term and the creation of a museum exhibit, mobile app and video to convey the history of the monuments and what they stand for, the report stated. The commission singled out Davis for removal if pending legal challenges are resolved and state law changes to clear the way for its removal.
“A holistic narrative acknowledges the emotional realities the Monument Avenue statues represent as well as other assets within the City,” the report states. Of the Davis statue, the commissioners wrote: “Of all the statues, this one is most unabashedly Lost Cause in its design and sentiment.”
State law limits local governments’ power to remove or modify war memorials, and some localities have concluded the law flatly prohibits taking down Confederate statues. The city of Charlottesville — the site of last year’s violent white nationalist rally held in defense of Confederate statues — is facing a lawsuit over its push to remove monuments of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from two downtown parks.
“The Commission’s report is unequivocal in its affirmation that there is an overwhelming desire and belief they should not remain as they currently are,” Stoney said in the statement. “Something needs to change, and I could not agree more.”
Beyond the commission, there have been other efforts locally to reckon with the city’s Confederate iconography and symbols.
Councilman Michael Jones proposed a charter change that would give Council the authority to remove the statues. The Council voted it down in December. Jones vowed to reintroduce the measure after Stoney’s commission wrapped up its work. More recently, the Richmond School Board renamed J.E.B. Stuart Elementary school to Barack Obama Elementary last month.