We have attempted, on this blog, to explore the origins and meanings of the statues on Monument Avenue. In the process, we have seen the complexity of their original contexts and the transformation of their meanings over time.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney created the Monument Avenue Commission in June 2017 to provide context for the Confederate statues that he believes offer a distorted picture of Richmond’s history. Stoney asked the Commission to explain “the monuments that currently exist,” and “to look into and solicit public opinion on changing the face of Monument Avenue by adding new monuments that would reflect a broader, more inclusive story of our city.”
“Richmond is known as a city of monuments. And the marquee street for monuments is Monument Avenue,” declared Richmond sportswriter Paul Woody in a 1995 column. “But the unfortunate impression left on some by the statues is that the street is reserved for Confederate leaders and Matthew Fontaine Maury. This impression should be changed. What better way to bring about change than by having a statue of [Arthur] Ashe on the city’s grandest boulevard?”
Eighty-eight years ago this month, on the 11th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, Richmonders gathered to unveil Frederick W. Sievers’ statue of Matthew Fontaine Maury on Monument Avenue. Confederate Museum House Regent Susan Harrison dutifully clipped articles about the statue, labeled them, and pasted them into a scrapbook.
This is the last in a series of posts offering brief backstories on the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue.
Why is there a statue of a grizzled old man in a civilian suit sitting under a storm-swept globe on Monument Avenue? Presumably, he was a Confederate. But the statue doesn't look especially Confederate, and the inscription reads simply “MAURY / PATHFINDER OF THE SEAS.”
When Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was killed at the battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, he was not just the Confederacy’s military idol, but an international military celebrity. Immediately upon learning of his death, English friends of the Confederacy began raising funds for a statue to him.