A lovely day for the event. Cyclists zoom up and down Monument Avenue, through public space with deep history. We know the myth better than the history. But it’s worth looking into that history.
From a piece I wrote elsewhere: Upon Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, former comrades and partisans began turning the fiction of their “lost cause” into stone and bronze fact on what would become Monument Avenue. In 1886, Fitzhugh Lee—Virginia governor and a former Confederate general himself—took over the project to erect a monument to his uncle after years of squabbling among rival groups. Although private contributions were to pay for the statue itself, supporters sought public money to defray other costs. African Americans and reformist whites fought them. Three black members of City Council, among them Richmond Planet editor John Mitchell Jr., a man born into slavery, and white Republicans blocked city funding for the cornerstone laying. But two years later, the council appropriated money for the May 29, 1890, unveiling. In the years that followed, racist whites pushed through laws and policies that attacked gains made by blacks toward full citizenship, effectively destroying any future opposition to the Confederate memorials that now anchor the avenue.