Jun 22, 2022 - News

Toppled Jefferson Davis statue goes on display at The Valentine

A photo of a statue of Jefferson Davis laying on its back, broken and covered with pink paint.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis in bronze on display in The Valentine's main gallery. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

A statue of Jefferson Davis that once loomed over Monument Avenue is back on display, but this time lying on its back and splattered in paint.

What's happening: On Wednesday, The Valentine museum unveiled the first exhibit of a Confederate statue removed by the city in 2020, opting to display the piece the way protesters left it after ripping it off its pedestal.

What they're saying: The damage and layers of paint only add to the statue's value as a historic object, the museum's leaders say.

  • The statue of the former Confederate president now tells the story both of how white city leaders worked to recast the Confederacy into a noble cause and how social justice protesters forcefully rejected that narrative, Christina Vida, a curator at the museum, told reporters at the unveiling.

Zoom in: Vida said the museum took pains to preserve every detail of the statue, including the remnants of a toilet paper noose protesters had hung around Davis' neck.

The details: The statue is on loan for at least six months from the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

  • The museum is offering free admission on Wednesdays as long as the statue is on display.
  • And at 1pm on Wednesdays, The Valentine is offering guided tours of the studio of the museum's first president, Edward Valentine, who originally sculpted the Davis statue.

What's next: The museum is surveying visitors about how to reinterpret Valentine's studio, which contains works ranging from busts glorifying the Confederacy to racist caricatures.

  • "It's crucial for us to hear from the community on how to present complex topics like the Lost Cause and Jim Crow-era racism," Valentine director Bill Martin said in a press release.
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