Monument Avenue statues to be impacted by 2 proposed resolutions

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 12/13/2019, 6 a.m.
City Councilwoman Kim B. Gray, 2nd District, wants to add a new monument to Monument Avenue that would honor black ...
Robert E. Lee monument

City Councilwoman Kim B. Gray, 2nd District, wants to add a new monument to Monument Avenue that would honor black soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Separately, Councilman Michael J. Jones, 9th District, is making a third attempt to push Richmond’s governing body to seek authority from the General Assembly to remove from that avenue the Confederate monuments that he regards as blatant symbols of racism.

On Monday, Ms. Gray and Dr. Jones introduced independent resolutions reflecting those aims for council consideration in January. A special council meeting has been called for 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, to consider the Jones resolution and likely pass it.

Both resolutions were submitted on the eve of Tuesday’s ceremony to unveil artist Kehinde Wiley’s “Rumors of War” sculpture on the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

That sculpture, depicting a modern black man riding a horse, is Mr. Wiley’s response to the statues of slavery-defending Confederates on horseback along Monument Avenue that are registered historic landmarks and that have been a centerpiece of the city’s public art for at least 120 years.

Ms. Gray’s resolution asks City Council to support a new foundation called Honor the 14, which she said plans to privately raise the $6 million to $8 million needed to build a monument to honor the 14 black Union soldiers who were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroism during the Battle of New Market Heights in 1864 in Henrico County.

The goal “is to put up a heroic monument on Monument Avenue of the size and scope of those previously installed that would pay tribute to the Medal of Honor winners who fought this battle and to call attention to the instrumental role that black Americans played in winning the Civil War,” Ms. Gray said.

“My resolution would put the council on record as endorsing the concept of the monument, authorizing the city administration to develop and implement a plan for installing the statue and requesting the mayor provide a seed grant of $5,000 in the next budget to support the foundation’s work,” she said.

If the resolution wins City Council support, Ms. Gray said the foundation would immediately begin fundraising.

The resolution is set to be considered by the Land Use, Housing and Transportation Committee at its next meeting 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, and could come before the council at its first meeting in January if it clears that hurdle. Dr. Jones and Ms. Gray are both members of the committee, which is chaired by Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District.

“Monument Avenue is the appropriate place for the kind of grand monument that is envisioned,” Ms. Gray said.

She noted that the mayor’s Monument Avenue Commission that reviewed the Confederate statues last year had recommended that the city develop and add a monument commemorating the service of U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War, particularly the 14 Medal of Honor winners at New Market Heights.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jones, with backing from the Richmond Branch NAACP and Mayor Levar M. Stoney, held a news conference Monday to announce that he is reviving his effort to get the City Council to urge the General Assembly to allow Richmond to decide the fate of the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue.