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Who should be on Monument Avenue?

Ronald E. Carrington | 6/25/2020, 6 p.m.
Who should go on the pedestals along Monument Avenue once the Confederate statues are removed?

Dr. Lee also suggested Mary Peake, who was born in Norfolk in 1823. Ms. Peake was a dedicated educator and creator of a school un- der the Emancipation Oak located on Hampton University’s campus that began in September 1861 for African-American adults to attend in the evenings.

“Women are very underrepresented in the public space,” Dr. Lee said. “There are a number of women who have done tremendous work to advance, not only African-Americans, but Virginia history.”

She also suggested statues of crusading journalists be placed on Monument Avenue – John Mitchell Jr., editor of the Richmond Planet newspaper in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, and Raymond H. Boone Sr., the late founder and publisher of the Richmond Free Press.

“They were journalists who got news out to Black people that otherwise wouldn’t be published,” Dr. Lee said.

Carmen Foster, a Richmond historian and leadership coach, asked why statues of people need to be erected on those spaces. She believes they should become a public space containing a healing, peaceful sculpture or water fountain or possibly a meditative space for spiritual solace and introspection. The public could interact there and share their perspectives in a safe environment, she said.

“What type of symbols do we have that go beyond individual ideologies and reveal the nature of the healing spirit?” she asked. “Richmond needs to honor something deeper and more powerful than fighting battles.”

James E. “J.J.” Minor III, president of the Richmond Branch NAACP, said Richmond needs a symbol of justice on Monument Avenue.

However, “I prefer to see statues of people representing justice — Oliver Hill, Henry Marsh and former Gov. Douglas Wilder and a few others — on Broad Street, where there is more traffic,” he said. “They helped to change the climate in Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, as well as the state.”