The J.E.B. Stuart statue on Monument Avenue is the latest to be removed since the city began hauling away Confederate sculptures on July 1.
The statue’s removal on Tuesday marks the third Confederate statue to be taken down since the first of the month. On that day, a state law took effect granting Richmond control of the statues, with the exception of the Robert E. Lee monument, which is owned by the state. Citing his emergency powers and an ongoing threat to public safety, Mayor Levar Stoney began the process of removing the city’s Confederate statues.
Last week, the statues of Stonewall Jackson and Matthew Fontaine Maury, as well as two Confederate cannons, were removed from Monument Avenue. The month prior, demonstrators pulled down the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Now, Lee is the only Confederate leader to tower above Monument Avenue.
L. Martin sat on the curb in front of the Liberty Circle Apartments as she watched the Stuart statue come down. A Richmond resident for more than 20 years, Martin said she’s grown “desensitized” to the city’s ubiquitous Confederate iconography.
She said she sees the monument removals as the first step in the city’s healing process, but hopes to see structural changes accompany the symbolic ones.
“We’re asking for injustices to stop happening,” Martin said.
The 22-foot bronze Stuart statue was unveiled at the beginning of a Confederate reunion on May 30, 1907, at the intersection of Lombardy Street and Monument. An animated portrayal of the cavalry commander was the theme for British-American sculptor Frederick Moynihan.
Stuart was born in Patrick County, along the North Carolina border, in 1833. He was wounded in the Battle of Yellow Tavern in Henrico County and died the next day — May 12, 1864 — at the home of his brother-in-law. A Virginia Historical Marker on the sidewalk at 200 W. Grace Street marks where the house stood. Stuart is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.
Since protests against police brutality erupted in Richmond on May 28, the J.E.B. Stuart monument has been blazoned with spray paint messages and become a popular skateboarding spot.
The site has also seen at least one violent police confrontation. On June 21, after protesters tied ropes around the statue and appeared poised to pull it down, police declared an unlawful assembly and launched tear gas to disperse the crowd. Six people were arrested.
On Tuesday, the paint-spattered Stuart statue went from its plinth to a flatbed trailer within four hours. It will be put into storage until the city determines its final resting place.
As a crane hoisted the statue onto the trailer, Eddie Robertson, who is Black, fished his phone from his pocket to read off a quote from Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’ 1861 Cornerstone speech, which was delivered in the weeks preceding the Civil War and defended slavery and espoused white supremacy.
Every morning, Robertson texts a quote he finds relevant to the day to his friends and family members. He sent out some of Stephens’ words amid ongoing protests.
“Don’t get it twisted, this is about slavery,” Robertson said.
Robertson, 62, has lived in Richmond since he was born. Throughout his years in Richmond, he grew frustrated with the city’s penchant for discussion over actions in regard to Confederate iconography. And he never thought he’d see the city’s Confederate statues fall.
“All the status quo wants to do is dialogue,” Robertson said. “It’s always about dialogue. Now it’s about action.”