RICHMOND, Va -- Statues memorializing Confederate leaders lining Monument Avenue continue to come down in Richmond. While the city begins to rethink what its historic boulevard looks like moving forward, the moment may also alter plans to build a statue honoring Black Union soldiers who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom.
A plan for erecting the statue on Monument Avenue that would memorialize 14 Medal of Honor recipients from a U.S. Colored Troops regiment of the Union Army who won a decisive victory over Confederate soldiers at the Battle of New Market Heights in eastern Henrico had previously gained approval by Richmond City Council.
Donald King, who was helping lead the effort, said the plans have lost momentum recently. The organization was in the process of setting dates for public hearings on the design of the monument, putting out an international call for an artist to build it, and launching a $10 million fundraising campaign.
“All that was ready to go, then the virus hit, and that slowed things down. Then George Floyd was killed, and that changed everything,” King said. “So I don't know, what's going to happen next. I don't know whether Monument Avenue will be fountains and modern art, or whether it will have historic figures on it.”
As Richmond begins to reimagine Monument Avenue, Anthony and Michal Fisher, along with their cousin Javion, continue to hand out supplies to people visiting the Lee monument for demonstrations or to take in what it now looks like. The Fishers said Richmond needs to find a way to capture and permanently honor the energy of this moment in the city.
“What I think is we should have a great gathering space for people who want to express their artistic freedom. It should be safe, and it should be for everybody,” Anthony Fisher said.
“Document this moment. Have a place where this moment can be seen and remembered 20 years from now. The artwork the pictures, the testimony of the people,” Michael Fisher said.
“I think the consciousness of the nation has been elevated,” King said.
While the effort to honor “The New Market 14” on Monument Avenue may not happen, King said another organization, The Battle of New Market Heights Memorial and Education Association, is working to build a statue near the historic battlefield in Henrico.
“I'm not sure what that is on Monument Avenue right now, I think everybody will get behind a statue of these heroes who were awarded the Medal of Honor,” he said. “The heroism of African American troops who beat white troops needs to be told.”
You can read more about the Battle of New Market Heights and the men who fought there by clicking here: https://battleofnewmarketheights.org/