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Richmond's Confederate Monuments


As cities across the U.S. continue to rethink their Confederate monuments, nowhere is the process more difficult than in Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. A commission appointed by the mayor issued its recommendations last week of which statue should stay and which should go. Megan Pauly of member station WCVE has more.


MEGAN PAULY, BYLINE: A towering monument to Jefferson Davis sits in the middle of four other Confederate statues at intersections along Richmond's residential Monument Avenue. There's one to Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson. A century ago, this avenue was one of the most fashionable places to live in the city in part because of these Lost Cause-era memorials, including that of Jefferson Davis. As many as 200,000 people gathered for the multi-day unveiling ceremony in 1907.


LEVAR STONEY: The story is, at best, an incomplete story, equal parts myth and deception. It was written in stone and bronze more than 100 years ago.

PAULY: That's Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney last summer when he announced the Monument Avenue Commission. Originally, the panel was tasked with adding context to the Confederate monuments. But then a rally in Charlottesville turned deadly over removal of Civil War-era statues there. Stoney then asked the commission to also consider removing the monuments. But that work was put on hold when protests broke out along the boulevard in Richmond.


PAULY: Still, Stoney says he hasn't lost his resolve to change Monument Avenue.


STONEY: We have to do something about this. We have to provide some sort of change. That's what the people want.

PAULY: More than 1,200 residents showed up at the meetings. Ultimately, the commission recommended removing only one Confederate monument, that of Jefferson Davis, saying it was the most unabashedly Lost Cause in its design and sentiment. The commission's report highlighted groups, like Virginia Commonwealth University's mOB Studio, that are working to reimagine the boulevard. Adele Ball is project manager for an international design competition.

ADELE BALL: We are all hopeful that, in the event that this kind of, like, magic bullet design surfaces, it might lead to some sort of built solution.

PAULY: Ball says they're considering the entire 5-mile-long stretch of Monument Avenue, not just the mile currently occupied with Confederate statues. What happens next is ultimately up to the state. Virginia law currently bars removal of memorials to war veterans, like Jefferson Davis. For NPR News, I'm Megan Pauly in Richmond. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.