The commission includes some very bright people, who understand the history and memory of the Civil War in Richmond and care deeply about their city.
Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum;
Gregg Kimball, director of education and outreach for the Library of Virginia;
Andreas Addison, Richmond city councilman;
Ed Ayers, author of “The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction” and “In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America”
Stacy Burrs, member of the Black History Museum’s board of directors;
Sarah Driggs, member of the Richmond Public Art Commission;
Kim Gray, city councilwoman;
Julian Hayter, historian and assistant professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond;
Lauranett Lee, professor at the University of Richmond;
Coleen A. Butler Rodriguez, member of the Board of Advisors for Historic Richmond;
Jon Baliles, senior policy advisor for the city of Richmond;
Anedra Bourne, city tourism director; and
Bobby Vincent, director of Richmond’s Department of Public works.
It is not clear what the impetus was behind the formation of this commission, but I suspect that the situation in New Orleans and Charlottesville had something to do with it. This is certainly a way for the city to get ahead of any public outcry that may be forthcoming.
Certainly the mayor of Richmond has made his view of Monument Avenue clear:
Equal parts myth and deception, they 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 today.
Will historical markers or some other form of context be a sufficient response to such concerns? I look forward to following the work of the commission.