Tag Archives: Statues

Respect Art, Heal Divisions

by Donald Smith

“Our institution takes very seriously the responsibility to manage these objects in ways that ensure their origins and purpose are never forgotten: that is the glorification of those who led the fight to enslave African Americans and destroy the Union.” 

Those are the words of Marland Buckner, interim director of the city of Richmond’s Black History Museum, in a December 2021 press release.  The press release responded to plans, just announced by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and then-Governor Ralph Northam, to transfer nine statues of Confederate leaders and soldiers to the custody of the Black History Museum and the Valentine Museum.  The fate of those statues is still up in the air.  But, for those people in Richmond and Virginia who want to treat those statues with contempt and disrespect, the Congressional Naming Commission (CNC) has just offered them a wonderful gift.

The CNC was formed by the last Congress and directed to review the visible memorials to, and mentions of, Confederates on Department of Defense assets.  It did much, much more than that.  It rendered an official assessment as to how all Americans should view Confederate statues that were created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – an assessment the CNC implies has Congress’ blessing. Continue reading


Yes! A Statue for Virginia’s Black Union Troops

Detail from a statute to the famed 54th Massachusetts Regiment, U.S.C.T. and its commander, Robert Gould Shaw.

Yes! Where can I donate? Richmond Councilwoman Kim Grey’s proposal in this morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch for a statute honoring the Civil War’s black Union troops from Virginia needs to be acted on promptly.  It should replace the one statue that does need to disappear off Monument Avenue, the one to Jefferson Davis.

In particular the proposal focuses on 14 Medal of Honor winners, seven Virginians, from a September 1864 battle near New Market Heights, part of Grant’s slow strangulation by siege of the Rebel capital.

If the purpose of the existing statues to the Secesh generals is history, then the full history need be told, the victor’s history. Tens of thousands of Virginians white and black remained loyal to the Union, passively or even actively opposing the Confederate government. A good example was Elizabeth Van Lew, a Church Hill matron whose exploits are reconstructed in “Southern Lady, Yankee Spy,”  by Elizabeth Varon.   The description of postwar Richmond politics is just as interesting. Continue reading