General

Elimination of Robert E. Lee leaves Arthur Ashe as Richmond’s final scrutinize

(RNS) — The final Accomplice monument silent standing on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue, the gigantic tribute to Classic Robert E. Lee, became eliminated on Wednesday (Sept. 8).

A 21-foot bronze sculpture mounted on a large 40-foot pedestal, it became primarily funded and conceived by the Ladies folk’ Lee Monument Committee, a predecessor to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which has its headquarters in Richmond to on the present time. The statue’s dedication on Also can 29, 1890, became accompanied by three days of occasions (including a choral performance by the Younger Men’s Christian Association) that drew an estimated 100,000 folks.

Beside the statue, particular stands had been constructed to maintain hundreds of white youngsters wearing crimson, white and blue who had been organized to carry out a residing Accomplice fight flag.


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The title of the Richmond Times editorial that week captured how the metropolis’s white residents understood the which implies of this original landmark: “Conquered Though Not Vanquished.” As historian Karen Cox summarized it, “This became no longer moral a monument to the residing’s most cherished hero; it became in regards to the restoration of Accomplice males’s honor.”

It became additionally a declaration of a war on the terrain of tradition and politics as Virginia, fancy many Southern states, threw off the reforms of Reconstruction and earn 22 situation up correct and cultural systems of segregation and the suppression of vote casting by African Individuals.

The Lee monument became the down fee by the metropolis’s white elite on a multidecade effort to carry out the gargantuan leafy delivery air hall that will perhaps well finally be punctuated by five net page visitors circles, each and every containing a large monument to the Confederacy.

An example of churches surrounding traffic circles for Confederate monuments on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. The J.E.B. Stuart Monument pedestal remains. The statue was removed in 2020. Photo by Robert P. Jones

An example of churches surrounding net page visitors circles for Accomplice monuments on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. The J.E.B. Stuart Monument pedestal stays. The statue became eliminated in 2020. Photograph by Robert P. Jones

Between 1890 and 1930, the wealthier white residents no longer finest moved their homes but additionally rebuilt no longer lower than seven of their churches out along Monument Avenue in the shadow of these monuments. The architectural interaction between monuments dedicated to the Confederacy and sanctuaries dedicated to God performatively expressed the motto emblazoned on the five-myth column on the support of the statue of Jefferson Davis: “God will vindicate.”

Over the final few years, I’ve spent loads of weeks in Richmond, conducting study in the archives of the UDC for my book “White Too Lengthy” and monitoring the unfolding drama as the metropolis and its churches are trying to extricate themselves from the Lost Trigger account and carry out a original myth that appears to be like to the long bustle, reasonably than the previous. The juxtapositions, and contradictions, would possibly very smartly be jarring.

When I first visited in July 2019, the metropolis had moral renamed one in every of its central streets — one which historically fronted the nationwide headquarters of the UDC along with “Fight Abbey,” first and major built to protect Accomplice reliquary and now the Virginia Museum of History & Culture — after native son and worldwide tennis smartly-known particular person Arthur Ashe Jr.

Monument to tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr. along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by Robert P. Jones

Monument to tennis smartly-known particular person Arthur Ashe Jr. along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photograph by Robert P. Jones

As a formative years, Ashe had been banned from playing tennis on Richmond’s public courts ensuing from his scramble. As an grownup, he dedicated his existence off the courtroom to worldwide civil rights work, philanthropy and scholarship.

That summer season, the VMHC had hung huge banners of Ashe delivery air the building, and there had been photography of him on huge placards along the sidewalk. Unswerving 30 feet or so down the sidewalk in front of the UDC building, half of a dozen pro-Accomplice protesters had hoisted huge Accomplice fight flags on makeshift poles over placards that read, “Build our monuments.”

When the UDC archivist handed me her enterprise card, it had already been as a lot as this level to notify their space on “Arthur Ashe Boulevard.”

The monument to Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, after 2020 racial justice protests. Photo by Robert P. Jones

The monument to Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, after 2020 racial justice protests. Photograph by Robert P. Jones

Curiously, right here’s no longer the first time that Richmond’s residents have known as on Ashe to oppose Accomplice forces in Richmond. In 1996, three years after his untimely loss of life, the metropolis placed a memorial to Ashe on Monument Avenue. The 12-foot-large statue, resting on a 21-foot pedestal, sits on a net page visitors circle moral previous the final of 5 Accomplice monuments along the venue. About 500 folks attended the disclosing of the monument, with some maintaining Accomplice flags in negate.

When I visited in 2019, I became struck by how diminutive Ashe seemed in the context of Monument Avenue. His likeness, anchoring one cease of the avenue, became roughly half of the size of the Lee, Davis and Jackson monuments nearer the metropolis center. But once I revisited this previous summer season, the statue of Ashe, with a book held high in his correct hand and a tennis racket moderately decrease in his left (a pose explicitly requested by Ashe himself to emphasise the importance of education) loomed better.

Four of the five Accomplice statues had been eliminated by the metropolis primarily primarily based on the Sunless Lives Topic protests of 2020. The statue of Lee had been covered with graffiti that reworked it into an internationally acknowledged residing of performance art for racial justice. 


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Monument to tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr. along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by Robert P. Jones

Monument to tennis smartly-known particular person Arthur Ashe Jr. along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photograph by Robert P. Jones

For the first time in 130 years, a outing down Richmond’s Monument Avenue is no longer going to entail an involuntary Lost Trigger pilgrimage. Rather — and right here’s the surprisingly transferring ride I had biking down that avenue this previous July — the empty pedestals will stand as quiet indicting witnesses to the previous valorization of white supremacy by a metropolis’s white leaders and churches.

The monument to Arthur Ashe Jr. prominently incorporates a biblical inscription from the Novel Testament’s Letter to the Hebrews on the front of its pedestal: “Since we’re surrounded by so large a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside each and every weight, and the sin which so simply ensnares us, and let us bustle with persistence the scramble that’s determined earlier than us.” 

I don’t know the entirety Ashe and his household had in mind with that selection, but this day it looks fitting for the final man standing on Monument Avenue.

(Robert P. Jones is the CEO and founding father of PRRI and the author of “White Too Lengthy: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity.” This text became first and major published on Jones’ Substack #WhiteTooLong. Read more at robertpjones.substack.com. The views expressed in this commentary attain no longer essentially mediate these of Religion News Provider.)

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