Jan 4, 2023 - News

The man who took down Richmond's Confederate monuments

Devon Henry looks at a statue of Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill after it was removed from its pedestal in Richmond, Va., December 12, 2022.

Devon Henry looks at a statue of Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill. Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce/Washington Post via Getty Images

Major contractors, all white, kept turning down former Gov. Ralph Northam's office when it went looking for someone willing to remove the Robert E. Lee Monument.

What happened: Northam's people eventually called Devon Henry, the 45-year-old owner of Team Henry Enterprises, writes Greg Schneider in an in-depth profile in the Washington Post this week, calling him "the man who finally drove the Confederates out of Richmond."

Why it matters: Henry, who is Black, would go on to oversee the removal of 24 Confederate statues in Virginia and North Carolina — the most recent of which came down last month in Richmond.

  • In the process, he ended up fulfilling a prophecy by Richmond civil rights activist and newspaper editor John Mitchell after Black laborers hoisted Lee onto his pedestal back in 1890.
  • Mitchell wrote in his paper after the unveiling that "the Negro … put up the Lee Monument, and should the time come, will be there to take it down."

What they're saying: Henry told the Post that Confederate statues weren't on his radar prior to the call from Northam's chief of staff Clark Mercer.

  • But he said he had experience with the symbolism and weight monuments can carry as the general contractor for the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia, which helped inform his decision to take the job.

Henry grew up in Hampton Roads and took a job alongside his mom at McDonald's when he was 14.

  • He graduated from Norfolk State University and rose through the ranks at General Electric before pouring his savings into starting his construction business.

Flashback: Henry recalled the hectic scene in 2020 as he removed the Stonewall Jackson Monument in Richmond.

  • Traffic control set up barriers at the wrong intersection. The city's police chief refused to provide crowd control because state law still prohibited the statue's removal. The mayor was watching from a "secret location" to avoid being served with any last-minute lawsuits.

It had started pouring rain before the crane was able to lift the statue. An elated crowd swarmed the figure.

  • "People are crying, people are jumping up and down, I'm going crazy," Henry told the Post. "At this point, law enforcement had no control. It was a hundred percent chaotic."

Go deeper via the Washington Post.


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