One less Confederate symbol
2/23/2023, 6 p.m.
Richmond resident Michael Sarahan is celebrating success for his two-year campaign to rid the city of one of its last two monuments to the slavery-defending Confederacy.
Without any fanfare, the city last week removed a massive engraved marker from the grounds of the South Side courthouse now named for two civil rights attorneys, retired Richmond state Sen. Henry L. Marsh III and his late brother, Harold M. Marsh Sr.
Mr. Sarahan reported Saturday the disappearance of the marker he described as a “monumental disgrace.” The United Daughters of the Confederacy created the marker 87 years ago to celebrate two local Confederate units, the Manchester Elliott Grays and the Manchester Artillery.
The Free Press first reported on the stone marker in May 2021 after Mr. Sarahan brought it to the newspaper’s attention. The monument had stood beside the Marsh Courthouse at 10th and Hull streets since May 9, 1936.
Since 2020, 12 other city-owned statues and images related to the Confederacy have been removed from city streets and parks, as has the once prominent state-owned statue of the slavery force’s top general, Robert E. Lee.
The departure of the courthouse marker leaves just one the Department of Public Utilities has defiantly insisted on keeping at its Wise Street substation and protected with fencing.
In December, the city’s last statue, the figure of Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill, was taken down.
Sadly, Richmond has not completely cleared the Confederacy from its boundaries. Plenty of streets honor slavery defenders, such as Leigh Street, named for one of the most prominent pre-Civil War advocates of Black bondage, Benjamin W. Leigh.
City Council and Mayor Levar M. Stoney also have maintained the name of Robert E. Lee on a major bridge spanning the James River. A renaming commission has not been established.
Which leaves us to wonder: If cities smaller than Richmond can change the name of a popular corridor — even if it takes five years, as it did when Lee Street became Gate City Boulevard in Greensboro, N.C. — what’s the holdup in Richmond?