History is Present Monument Avenue

Said and Unsaid On Monument Avenue


 

The Confederate statues on Monument Avenue, and those who originated them, spoke with one voice. Here, they claimed, are perfect exemplars of a cause not lost, offering lessons for our own time. Yet the unity expressed on podiums and inscribed on the pedestals themselves belies great internal conflict among the white people who erected them at the turn of the 20th century and the diversity of meaning that the monuments accrued for different people over time. The monuments themselves often do not obviously speak to greater meaning about defeat, race, politics, and life in Richmond, Virginia.

So much more went unsaid than was said on the podiums. But the monuments’ builders were not otherwise silent. We should listen to those larger conversations.

This series explores things said and unsaid over time. In short blog posts (with recommendations for further reading) we will explore historical literature, fiction writing, politics, tourism, and race to illuminate the many ways these monuments bequeathed meaning, and how they defined a larger history of the past, analysis of their present, and prescriptions for the future.  

These monuments cannot be disentangled from their Lost Cause associations, but we will also examine Monument Avenue as a tourist destination in the mid-20th century, and as a community space in which the monuments and their messages often faded into the background.

In looking at what went—and thus goes—unsaid on Monument Avenue, we hope to connect the dots between these monuments—through the Lost Cause, and to the political histories and lived experiences of people in the city of Richmond and the Commonwealth of Virginia. At the end, we hope to show how the memory of the Civil War had, and still has, tangible impact in our lives. Browse through the entries of this blog series, and visit the On Monument Avenue site for more information and resources.