Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia
By Contested Histories Initiative •
In the years after the Confederate States of America (often referred to as the ‘Confederacy’) lost the American Civil War in 1865, several groups established memorials to Confederate leaders across the South. Five Confederate statues were erected on Monument Avenue in Richmond, once the capital of the Confederacy and the current state capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Because these monuments were associated with slavery and White supremacy, disputes over their salience and implications increased over time. Following a deadly shooting of nine African-Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015, a White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May 2020, at the hands of police officers, and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, calls to remove the statues on Monument Avenue escalated. Four monuments were taken down in 2020, the fifth in 2021. This case study explores how protests and public activism can reframe the narrative of historical monuments in a more complex and often conflictual light.