Governor Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced plans to transfer ownership of the statues and pedestals of Richmond’s Confederate monuments, including that of Robert E. Lee, to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. The museum, in turn, plans to partner with The Valentine and other Richmond cultural institutions to manage a multi-year, community-driven process to determine the proper future use of each piece of the collection.
The Commonwealth of Virginia will transfer ownership of the entire Lee Monument, including the 40-foot protest-art-covered granite pedestal and associated artifacts, to the city. Mayor Stoney’s office says he will subsequently seek Richmond City Council support in January to accept the property and transfer ownership of the monument to the Black History Museum, along with title to all city-owned Confederate statues removed to date and their now-unoccupied pedestals, which are in the process of being removed.
The complete list includes monuments to Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Joseph Bryan, Fitzhugh Lee, Confederate Soldier and Sailors, and ceremonial cannon. It does not include A.P. Hill, who is buried under his monument, as discussions with his descendants continue about the relocation of his remains.
Governor Northam, Mayor Stoney, and museum leaders identified three factors in the transfer decision and subsequent agreement:
- Placing community-based museums in the driver’s seat to determine appropriate interpretation and curation of the monuments that can facilitate a fulsome and respectful dialogue on the issue
- Ensuring decision-making and community input processes are not bogged down by government bureaucracy or politics
- Providing a framework for catalyzing philanthropic support for both community engagement and future use of the monuments
“Symbols matter, and for too long, Virginia’s most prominent symbols celebrated our country’s tragic division and the side that fought to keep alive the institution of slavery by any means possible,” said Gov. Northam. “Now it will be up to our thoughtful museums, informed by the people of Virginia, to determine the future of these artifacts, including the base of the Lee Monument which has taken on special significance as protest art.”
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