Toppled Confederate statue on display in Richmond museum

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RICHMOND, Va. — A prominent Confederate statue that stood in Richmond for more than 100 years before protesters tore it down is back on display for the public.

The Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue was erected in 1907. It took just 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 the social justice protests that lead to additional Confederate statues to come down.

Davis has sat in storage at the city’s wastewater treatment plant under cover since.

The Valentine museum on East Clay Street will unveil their temporary exhibit showcasing the Davis statue to the public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. The statue is on loan from Richmond’s Black History Museum for six months.

Valentine Museum Director Bill Martin said they had lengthy conversations on how to exactly display the statue. The team decided to display Davis the same way the public last saw it — on its side and covered in graffiti.

“We have other objects in our collection that address the history of racial oppression and Jim Crow laws here. We don’t have as many powerful objects that really tell the real story of what happened here in the summer of 2020,” said Christina Vida, the museum’s curator of general collections. “We want to make our visitors when they come down they’re seeing a 2020 object.”

Visitor feedback will inform the Valentine’s interpretation of the Edward Valentine Sculpture Studio, 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 light the path forward,” said Martin. “We want to create a safe space for people to learn, be challenged and confront their assumptions and biases about Richmond’s troubling past. The Edward Valentine Sculpture Studio is an important piece of Richmond history, so it’s crucial for us to hear from the community on how to present complex topics like the Lost Cause and Jim Crow-era racism.”

Martin highlighted a survey of Richmonders that revealed 80% believed the Confederate statues should be displayed inside of 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’s connection to the museum and the Downtown Richmond building spans generations. Martin said the statue is returning to the place where it was created.

“We know that Jefferson Davis came to the small building to be measured. We have detail drawings and measurements of his face,” he explained.

Valentine created sculptures that were displayed all over north and south during the Civil War era that included strong messages about what was happening in Richmond. Martin said those messages were reflected of what is now described as the “Lost Cause.”

The Valentine has made admission to its museum free on Wednesday to encourage anyone to visit the new exhibit.

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