Rebel With a Cause

Paul Goldman

400 Years Later


Money alone won't fix up Capitol Square. Despite  four centuries of history, Virginians don't have a single statue honoring a woman or African-

American on the Capitol grounds.


In 2007, America and the world will mark the 400th anniversary of the settlement at Jamestown, an epic event in human history. I urge Virginia's elected officials to make sure that the celebration doesn't become the cause of a huge embarrassment for the Commonwealth and its citizens. 


The state capitol grounds will be the center of attention for hundreds of thousands of tourists and the world's media. Unfortunately, state bureaucrats appear to only see this event in terms of the money, estimated in the tens of millions of dollars, it will cost to repair and refurbish the State Capitol Square grounds and facilities. Admittedly, Jefferson's Capitol, home to the oldest Legislature in the New World and the Governor's office, needs fixing up. Whether the politicians in Richmond should have agreed to spend $100 million on the Capitol when they were reneging on promises to our schools and their students is legitimate question.

Regardless of the answer, all the new construction materials will not hide the obvious: There is not a single statute on the Capitol Square featuring an African-American or a female Virginian. The last new statute erected on the grounds was the likeness of former Governor and Senator Harry F. Byrd, the foremost segregationist in Virginia's political history.

Truth was, the Byrd Machine tried to keep Virginia for
"their kind," and those of us who know our history also know this never included most Virginians. Harry and his henchman ruled with an iron grip for half a century.

He got his statute. Let it stand, for it serves as a reminder of many things, all which we need to remember, not forget. But now, it seems to me, the time has come to put some balance in the scales of political justice. We can no longer turn our heads and pretend that we don't see.

Imagine: Four centuries since Jamestown, the whole world watching and not a single statute on our Capitol Grounds showing we get it. There is no reason for our elected officials to allow us to be held up to such international ridicule.

To me, the idea of finally erecting a statute in Capitol Square to honor the women and African-American heroes who built Virginia hardly seems controversial at all. But here we are, and nothing has yet been done, at least as best as the average citizen can determine. Given the normal governmental process required to change this unacceptable condition by 2007, there isn't time to waste.

Green stuff alone will not restore our state capitol square to its proper glory. The tourists and media due to arrive in 2007 are coming to see how far we have come since the first harsh winter at Jamestown.   This is not measured in bricks and mortar and the convenience of a new parking garage. The New World gave birth to an individual freedom which electrified the minds of people everywhere.

It started in Virginia. It is our revolution. Let's make sure the whole world knows how much pride we take in it.

-- April 21, 2003


(c) Copyright. All rights reserved. Paul Goldman. 2003.


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Paul Goldman, the Rebel With a Cause, was chief political strategist for the past two winning Democratic governors in Virginia and was credited with leading a "revolution in American politics" by The New York Times for his role in breaking America's 300-year-old color barrier in national politics.


You can reach him at