New History and Culture Commission

3/1/2019, 6 a.m.
We were interested to see the list of appointees on Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s new History and Culture Commission that ...

We were interested to see the list of appointees on Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s new History and Culture Commission that was released this week. It has been charged with advising the mayor and the city on creating more “equitable spaces and opportunities” when it comes to public monuments and spaces of historical and cultural significant.

While the new panel is an outgrowth of the mayor’s former Monument Avenue Commission, we hope that it will not be a continuation of the weak, accommodationist group that buckled on removing all of the shameful statues to Confederate traitors along Monument Avenue.

That now defunct commission bowed to the pressure of factions who hide behind the hood of heritage as an excuse to maintain the public statues honoring white racists who fought a war to keep black people in human bondage. Last year, the commission recommended that only the statue to Jefferson Davis, the former Confederate president, be removed and that signs of “context” be added to the four other statues of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart and Matthew Fontaine Maury. The commission also suggested that additional statues be added to Monument Avenue.

Mayor Stoney views the new History and Culture Commission as providing direction on implementing the recommendations of the Monument Avenue panel. But we hope the new panel will see its mission as broader and more important than implementing the wimpy suggestions of the moribund group.

The new nine-member commission is comprised of five African-American and four Caucasian voting members who have a diverse range of talent and experience. We hope they have the backbone and vision to recommend and help create a clear, uncut, unvarnished, inclusive and complete history of Richmond in our public spaces that honors the memory and contributions of true heroes. We need a group that will honestly question why we still have scores of street names, bridges, buildings, statues and other nomenclature recognizing the Lost Cause.

We hope people of conscience will be vigilant in monitoring the new commission’s meetings and actions and provide critical input to make their work fruitful and reflective of the positive contributions of generations of people — particularly people of color — who built this city. 

We all want a Richmond we can be proud of. We want a city that visitors can enjoy as they learn about the richness of our past. And we want a city that can attract new and growing companies because we are a visibly inclusive and forward-thinking community that publicly honors the proud parts of our past.

What we choose to publicly honor — through statues, street and bridge names and others — says a lot about us. We hope the History and Culture Commission will act upon that fact.