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Richmond homeowners covering historical plaques depicting Lee statue

Posted at 6:22 PM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 20:15:23-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Homeowners in Richmond’s Fan District are covering up or replacing the historical plaques that depict the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Dana Marshall inherited the plaque on her Hanover Avenue home from the previous owners.

“I thought, here it is on my house, so anybody walking up to the door is confronted with this. I just said it’s not going to happen,” she explained. “I support the removal of the statues and see how they can be offensive.”

Marshall’s home is a half-mile from where the Lee Statue sits on Monument Avenue. The monument has been the site of Black Lives Matter protests for nearly a month.

“It didn’t really sink in until this movement started,” Marshall said.

Marshall stuck black tape covering the Lee statue on her plaque. Her neighbor posted a “Black Lives Matter” sticker on theirs, while others have left them clean.

The plaques designate a home registered with The Fan Area Historic District and National Register of Historic Places.

The Fan Women’s Club manages the production and distribution of the plaques. The committee researches the year that a home in the Fan was built.

“Our board has been in the process of reviewing the current design which has the image of Robert E. Lee monument and exploring other possibilities for designs for the past several months,” said Anne Ring, the club’s public affairs board member.

Governor Ralph Northam has committed to removing the Confederate monument, but a judge has granted an injunction temporarily halting the plans.

“I know some will protest. Some will say Lee was an honorable man. I know many people will be angry, but my friends, I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way," said Northam.

Alyssa Murray came up with the idea of a new plaque depicting Richmonder and abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew. Heather Toler at RVA Creatives was commissioned to design the plaque.

“Van Lew risked her life, she risked her wealth, she risked her reputation to make sure that people could be free and equitable. She was an abolitionist, a protofeminist and hated at the end of her life by white Richmonders who were disgusted by what she was promoting and she was stood for,” Murray explained.

Van Lew spent her entire fortunate buying, freeing and educating slaves. She helped Union soldiers escape prison and deployed a network of friends working in homes of Confederate leaders to gather military intelligence.

“We need to look at who our heroes are who we are celebrating,” Murray stated. “That’s the forward facing image I want people to have to the street and people walking by.”

Currently, there are 30 Van Lew plaques on Richmond homes. Murray plans to produce more and other markers depicting Black leaders.

She will donate the profits to the National Bail Out and Rise for Youth.

If you would like to order a Van Lew plaque you can email Murray at vanlewplaques@gmail.com

Heather Toler at RVA Creatives can be reached at heather@rvacreatives.com

However, some are opposed to changing the plaques or will leave theirs up entirely.

“It’s a historical marker. You can remove it, you can’t erase it,” one man wrote on the Nextdoor app.

“Let’s not be ridiculous…No, not time for an update. Feel free to do what you want with yours, however," another wrote.