2. Monument Avenue in the Civil Rights Era and After
The practice of memorializing Virginia’s role in the Civil War emphasized the Lost Cause ideology and primarily avoided the issue on race. Fears of an African American majority were expressed by the common concern that if they gained political control of the city, African Americans would tear down the statues on Monument Avenue. In 1965, the Richmond City Planning Commission examined plans to modernize Monument Avenue and centralize the city’s Confederate iconography. These proposals were laid out in the December 1965 pamphlet, “Design for Monument Avenue”. A plan to get rid of brick surface for asphalt surface as a traffic-friendly corridor created controversy and out of these fears grew the Monument Avenue Preservation Society (MAPS). While the CPC had attempted to streamline and extend the marketable imagery of the Confederacy on Monument Avenue, the United Daughters of Confederacy and the Civil War Roundtable were able to prevent this modernization and keep the statues where they had originally been sited. They described Monument Avenue as a “bridge from past to present,” and reasoned that it was “incumbent upon the community today to be aware of this heritage and the artifacts which preserve it, so that our activities reinforce rather than obscure those elements of our heritage which we value.” There was the project of Salvador Dali who had been asked to create a monument dedicated to Sally Tompkins. She was known as the “Angel of the Confederacy” since in the years of the Civil War she operated Robertson Hospital which regularly welcomed Confederate soldiers. The furor over Dali’s proposal, ultimately defused the 1965 and 1966 efforts to expand the memorial strip since it would possibly alter the public’s familiar perception of Monument Avenue. While the CPC and the state General Assembly did extend protection over the avenue, ensuring the statues could not be removed by an African American majority, attempts to introduce new statues ground to a halt.
Barbee, M. M. Race and Masculinity in Southern Memory: History of Richmond, Virginia's Monument Avenue, 1948-1996. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014.
HIST 402A Fall 2020