Mar 21, 2023 - News

Taking down Richmond's last Confederate memorials

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Mayor Levar Stoney is laying the groundwork for a final purge of Confederate memorials from city property.

Why it matters: The big monuments might have come down, but the city is still littered with street, building and park names honoring the Confederacy and its supporters.

Context: Last week, we asked you to share your questions about Stoney's budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.

  • Reader Linda T. wrote in to ask if it’s true Stoney is working on a plan to replace all the remaining Confederate names on public property.

The answer, it turns out, is that Stoney is working on it.

What they're saying: Stoney's chief administrative officer Lincoln Saunders referred us to Stoney's remarks when he introduced his budget proposal at the beginning of the month.

  • Stoney announced he was proposing $200,000 to reestablish the city's defunct History and Culture Commission.
  • Among the reconstituted commission's tasks would be to produce a full inventory of street, bridge and public space names "associated with the Confederacy or enslavers and outline a process to rename such locations."

Background: Stoney formed the History and Culture Commission in 2019 to make recommendations about how to add interpretive context to the city's Confederate memorials.

  • But the initiative never got off the ground before the protests of 2020 began, which prompted Stoney to order the removal of all city-owned Confederate statues.

Context: An informal accounting by Style Weekly way back in 2015 counted more than 90 Confederate honorifics around the area β€” though not all are under city control.

  • Some of the biggies include Joseph Bryan Park, Mosby Court and the Robert E. Lee Bridge β€” all named after prominent Confederates.

Of note: Confederate memorials are ingrained so deeply into the city's infrastructure that removing names has already proved complicated.

  • City Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch abandoned an effort to rename the Lee Bridge after the road that traverses it, Belvidere Street, after a resident protested that the name Belvidere traced back to a nearby slave plantation.

What's next: There are lots of steps before any renaming takes place, but first the city council would need to sign off on Stoney's plan and agree to reconstitute the city's naming commission.

Zoom out: The country's reckoning with Confederate memorials continues at all levels of government.

  • That includes the renaming of the Virginia National Guard's Fort Pickett, which is scheduled to be officially redesignated on Friday as Fort Barfoot in honor of Col. Van T. Barfoot, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient who lived in Henrico.

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