One hundred fifty-five years after Robert E. Lee surrendered, the former capital of the Confederacy is re-examining the painful legacy that it publicly memorialized on Monument Avenue.
The former capital, Richmond, Va., took down a statue of the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday after Mayor Levar Stoney used emergency powers to order its immediate removal, along with other Confederate statues on city property.
Mr. Stoney said in a video statement that his order was to “expedite the healing process for the city” as well as for public safety, after other statues had been torn down by protesters.
“We have needed to turn this page for decades,” he said.
In Richmond alone, people have toppled a Jefferson Davis statue; thrown one of Christopher Columbus into a lake; toppled the Howitzers Monument, which featured a Confederate artilleryman; and torn down a statue of William Carter Wickham, a Confederate general.
Mr. Stoney said that removing the remaining Confederate statues would take several days, and that they would be kept in storage until the community decides their ultimate fate.
Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue that sits on state property in Richmond, but the process has stalled because of several lawsuits, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Stoney, who is Black, said Richmond had been burdened with the legacy of the Confederacy since the end of its tenure as its capital city.
“The great weight of that burden has fallen on our residents of color,” he said, adding that it “also placed a weight on all of our brothers and sisters who saw the unmet potential for Richmond to become an international example of a diverse, compassionate and inclusive community.”
Although the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue was announced suddenly, crowds began to form shortly after a crane appeared on the street nearby. After about four hours, the statue was finally hoisted into the air.
“Everybody’s like screaming and clapping and yelling,” said Paul Finch, 29, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University, who was on a friend’s porch overlooking the scene when the process began.
Virginia had more than 220 public memorials to the Confederacy, according to the governor’s office. A state law that went into effect on Wednesday gives local governments the ability “to remove, relocate, or contextualize the monuments in their communities.”
“These monuments tell a particular version of history that doesn’t include everyone,” Mr. Northam said when he signed the legislation in April. “In Virginia, that version of history has been given prominence and authority for far too long.”
Ezra Marcus contributed reporting from Richmond, Va., and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs from New York.