RICHMOND, Virginia – An important Confederate statue that remained in Richmond for more than 100 years before protesters demolished it is back on public display.
The Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue was erected in 1907. It took a few minutes for a crowd to tie a rope around the eight-foot Confederate statue and pull it down with a truck on June 10, 2020.
That statue was seen as the first domino to fall during social justice protests that led to the fall of other Confederate statues.
Davis has since stayed indoors at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The Valentine’s Museum on East Clay Street will unveil its temporary exhibit showing the Davis statue to the public at 10:00 am Wednesday. The statue is on loan from the Black History Museum in Richmond for six months.
Valentine’s Museum director Bill Martin said they had long conversations about exactly how to display the statue. The team decided to show Davis the same way audiences saw him last: on one side and covered in graffiti.
“We have other items in our collection that address the history of racial oppression and Jim Crow laws here. We don’t have that many powerful items that really tell the true story of what happened here in the summer of 2020,” he said. Christina Vida, curator of the museum’s general collections. “We want our visitors to see a 2020 item when they come down.”
Visitor feedback will inform the Edward Valentine Sculpture Studio’s Valentine’s Day interpretation, where the Davis statue was created by the museum’s first president.
“This is a critical time to have a conversation about our shared history and illuminate the path forward,” said Martin. “We want to create a safe space where people can learn, be challenged and confront their assumptions and prejudices about Richmond’s troubling past. The Edward Valentine Sculpture Studio is an important piece of Richmond’s history, so it is vital for us to listen to the community on how to present complex topics such as the lost cause and racism of the Jim Crow era. “
Martin highlighted a poll among the Richmonders which revealed that 80% believed Confederate statues should be displayed inside a museum.
In 2020, a spokesperson for the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans told CBS 6 that a museum setting would help the statues be protected and preserved.
Davis’ connection with the Downtown Richmond museum and building spans generations. Martin said the statue is returning to the place where it was created.
“We know Jefferson Davis came to the small building to be measured. We have detailed drawings and face measurements of him, “he explained.
Valentine created sculptures that were displayed throughout the north and south during the Civil War era that included strong messages about what was happening in Richmond. Martin said those messages reflected what is now described as the “lost cause”.
The Valentine made free admission to its museum on Wednesday to encourage anyone to visit the new exhibit.