Mayor announces 13-person commission to study adding context to Monument Avenue statues

Mayor announces 13-person commission to study adding context to Monument Avenue statues

The commission includes well-respected community and city leaders from a wide variety of perspectives and viewpoints, who will solicit public feedback and make official recommendations on how to add context to, rather than outright remove, the city’s Confederate statues.

The City of Richmond is assembling a 13-member commission to study ways to add context to the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue. The announcement was made by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney at a press conference Thursday afternoon at City Hall.

The Monument Avenue Commission, as it will be known, is made up of area leaders from a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds including the American Civil War Museum, the University of Richmond, and the Library of Virginia. They and others will serve alongside hand-picked city staff members.

At the press conference, Mayor Stoney called the Confederate monuments that line the historic roadway “painful,” but didn’t suggest their removal, as cities such as New Orleans and Charlottesville have suggested or already done. He called the monuments a “false narrative” and vowed that the city would soon tell the “real story of Richmond.” Outright removal would currently be illegal under a state law that specifically forbids it.

“It’s our time; it’s our responsibility to set the historical record straight on Monument Avenue’s Confederate statuary, he said in a prepared statement. “Equal parts myth and deception, [the Confederate monuments] were the ‘alternative facts’ of their time – a false narrative etched in stone and bronze more than 100 years ago – not only to lionize the architects and defenders of slavery, but to perpetuate the tyranny and terror of Jim Crow and reassert a new era of white supremacy.”

“It is my belief that without telling the whole story, these monuments have become a default endorsement of that shameful period–one that does a disservice to the principles of racial equality, tolerance, and unity we celebrate as values in ‘One Richmond’ (the Mayoral administration’s slogan of unity) today.”

In addition to adding context to the monuments, which may take the form of plaques and signage that “you might see at a National Park,” as Stoney put it, the Mayor also hopes to see other notable Richmonders added to Monument Avenue. A statue to Richmond tennis legend Arthur Ashe–the most recent addition, unveiled in 1996–is the only non-Confederate statue on the roadway. “I think we should consider what Monument Avenue would look like with a little more diversity,” Stoney continued.

The commission, Stoney promised, is not, unlike the monuments, “set in stone.” He vowed the 13-member task force would “listen to all perspectives” as part of the process before making official recommendations.

No timeline surrounding the process was released at press time. The full list of area leaders participating in the Monument Avenue Commission is as follows:

  • Christy Coleman – CEO, American Civil War Museum
  • Gregg Kimball – Director of Education and Outreach, Library of Virginia
  • Andreas Addison – 1st District Richmond City Councilman
  • Ed Ayers – Author of The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction and In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America
  • Stacy Burrs – Board Member, Black History Museum
  • Sarah Driggs – Member, Richmond Public Art Commission
  • Kim Gray – 2nd District Richmond City Councilwoman
  • Julian Hayter – Historian and Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond
  • Lauranett Lee – Professor, University of Richmond
  • Coleen A. Butler Rodriguez – Board of Advisors, Historic Richmond Foundation
  • Jon Baliles – Senior Policy Advisor, City of Richmond
  • Anedra Bourne – Tourism Director, City of Richmond
  • Bobby Vincent – Director, Richmond Department of Public Works

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.