No more Confederate statues are standing on Monument Avenue in Richmond. A few, however, remain throughout the city.
A year after ordering the removal of the city’s Confederate monuments, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration is preparing to remove the statue of A.P. Hill in the city’s North Side.
Meanwhile, Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, said Friday that he expects state legislation will soon be introduced to remove statues of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Hunter Holmes McGuire and former Virginia Gov. William “Extra Billy” Smith from Capitol Square.
The four statues are still standing after state and city officials last year began to dismantle Confederate monuments in response to massive racial justice protests stemming from the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. On Wednesday, the state took down its statue of Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against an appeal of Gov. Ralph Northam’s removal order.
As outrage over police brutality and the killing of Black people drove protests across the country, the Lee statue became the epicenter of local protests here, with demonstrators pressing a list of demands that included removing monuments to white supremacy.
“A lot of folks really started to pay attention to this a year ago,” Bagby said in an interview. “I’m fully confident that the majority of citizens in the commonwealth not only desire, but demand that those monuments come down from all public spaces.”
Stoney and other city officials said last week that they’re unsure of the exact timeline for the removal of the A.P. Hill statue, but that they have come to an agreement with descendants of Hill’s relatives to move the monument and his buried remains underneath it to Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper.
The state earlier this summer took a statue of Harry F. Byrd Sr., a former Virginia governor and U.S. senator, down from Capitol Square. State lawmakers earlier in the year voted to remove the statue of Byrd, a Democrat, because of his support of segregation and Massive Resistance, a series of state laws and policies adopted in the late 1950s meant to oppose the integration of public schools.
Grant Neely, a spokesperson for Northam, said he expects the removal of the three other statues would be handled in a similar manner by the General Assembly.
While the city was first to begin taking down its Confederate monuments last summer, after protesters had toppled several others, including that of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the city has stalled on the removal of the A.P. Hill monument over legal complications.
Beneath the monument, located at the intersection of Hermitage Road and West Laburnum Avenue, the Confederate lieutenant general is buried, standing up. His remains were moved there from Hollywood Cemetery in 1891, a year after the dedication of the Lee monument.
City officials said they could not take down the statue without first determining what to do with his remains.
Stoney said last week that a relocation ordinance would be introduced to the City Council on Monday, but administration officials later said it needed to be delayed to give the city’s lawyers more time to review and finalize agreements with the family under a process that involves the city’s circuit court.
“I think it’s a difficult timeline to predict given the collaboration not just with the family, but the courts and the council,” said Lincoln Saunders, the city’s chief administrative officer. “We’ve been moving as expeditiously as we can. ... It’s hard to underestimate the complications of it being a gravesite.”
It remains unclear what the city plans to do with the rest of the statues it took down last year, which were initially transported to a sewage treatment plant.
“It is up to City Council to determine their fate — to whom and where the bronze sculptures and stone pedestals will be relocated,” said Jim Nolan, the mayor’s spokesperson. “The costs of removal and transport will be the responsibility of the recipients” unless the council allocates funding.
Steven Skinner, a spokesperson for the council chief of staff’s office, said Friday that the council is still reviewing the proposals and determining next steps. He did not provide any additional detail or respond to follow-up questions Friday evening.
State lawmakers have allocated $1 million for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to develop a public plan for the future of Monument Avenue.
While the state plans to keep the graffiti-covered plinth of the Lee monument in place for now, the Stoney administration plans to remove what remains of the other monuments. Officials from the governor’s office and a community group that includes the VMFA have advocated against the city removing the plinths.