MONUMENT AVENUE: A SELECT READING LIST
The American Civil War Museum offers this short annotated list of secondary sources for you to further explore the history of post-emancipation Virginia and the origins and development of Monument Avenue. In addition to histories, we recommend a number of readings and resources on the challenges of public memorialization in a pluralistic democracy.
VIRGINIA'S POLITICAL CULTURE AFTER THE CIVIL WAR
Archer Anderson began his speech at the unveiling of the R.E. Lee monument with the claim, “A people carves its own image in the monuments of its great men.” Indeed, the origins and evolution of Monument Avenue cannot be understood without grasping the politics and culture of Virginia from the 1870s until the present time. We find the following books key to understanding this period.
Michael B. Chesson, Richmond After the War, 1865-1890, (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1981)
Chesson traces the political and economic history of Richmond during and after Reconstruction, and the ability of the city’s elite leadership to maintain control and resist significant change. Despite a growing industrial base and tumultuous labor and racial politics, Richmond’s conservative leadership, according to Chesson, stunted its growth in comparison to other Virginia cities. Chapter 7 describes Richmond's economy and politics in the 1880s.
Jane Dailey, Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Postemancipation Virginia, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000)
The Readjuster movement—a biracial coalition of black and white Republicans and disaffected white Democrats—formed in late 1870s and early 1880s around issues of public debt and public education and gained key elected offices. Dailey examines the movement, and the efforts of the Conservative/Democratic Party to regain control of the Commonwealth and define a new government based on conservative public policy and an explicitly white supremacist rhetoric. In particular, this chapter is relevant.
Susan Breitzer, Virginia Constitutional Convention (1901-1902), (Encyclopedia Virginia)
This quick essay explores the background and legacy of the 1902 Virginia constitution that effectively disfranchised most of Virginia’s black voters.
J. Douglas Smith, Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics, and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002)
After the 1902 constitution, Smith claims, white Virginians “managed” white supremacy through interracial cooperation, the allowance of limited black economic progress, and a disavowal of racial violence and intimidation. White leaders crowed about progressive race relations, but their methods served only to reinforce racial inequality. Chapter 3 details Richmond’s dismissal of the Klan, but its embrace of the Anglo Saxon Clubs that promoted the 1924 Racial Integrity Act.
James H. Hershman, Jr., Massive Resistance, (Encyclopedia Virginia)
Virginia’s political leaders sought to oppose school desegregation with a policy of “Massive Resistance” in 1956. This moment proved to be a turning point in many Virginians’ approach to race relations.
Julian Maxwell Hayter, The Dream Is Lost: Voting Rights and the Politics of Race in Richmond, Virginia, (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2017)
Hayter looks at Richmond politics before and after the Voting Rights Act enabled African Americans to earn a city council majority by the late 1970s. These successes were burdened by a policy legacy of systemic neglect in African American neighborhoods. Chapter 4 details the struggle by Henry Marsh, Richmond's first Black mayor, to build a political coalition and forward policy agendas with skeptical white politicians.
CIVIL WAR MEMORY
David Blight wrote that “many ex-Confederates put enormous faith in history as their source of justification. While the history that they had lived ruined them, the history they would help write might redeem them.” That history manifested as what we call “The Lost Cause.” These books are essential to understanding how that history served white southerners after the Civil War.
David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 2002)
White northerners and southerners forged reconciliation after the Civil War, Blight claims, at the cost of the memory of emancipation and black participation in the conflict. That forgetting was linked to the loss of political rights for African Americans at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Blight’s exploration of literature, art, politics, and memory, takes in events along Richmond’s Monument Avenue. Of particular interest is Chapter 8, “The Lost Cause and Causes Not Lost.”
Thomas J. Brown, The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration: A Brief History with Documents, (New York: Bedford Series in History & Culture, 2004)
Brown’s brief reader offers primary sources, images, discussion questions, and guides for interpreting Civil War monuments, and includes material from the unveiling of the Lee Monument.
Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987)
Foster connects white southerners’ construction of a history of the Civil War to their anxiety about social change and desire to define a place for themselves in the contemporary United States. Parades, monuments, and other public celebrations reinforced their conservative social vision. Chapter 7 documents the transition from bereavement over loss to celebration of the Confederacy, with a focus on the Lee Monument.
Caroline E. Janney, Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2012)
Southern women, as they worked to relocate and reinter thousands of remains of Confederate soldiers, were some of the earliest exponents of Confederate tradition. Janney’s book focuses on Virginia, and looks closely at Hollywood Cemetery and the Ladies’ Memorial Associations that preceded the United Daughters of the Confederacy. This chapter in particular is relevant.
Timothy S. Sedore, An Illustrated Guide to Virginia’s Confederate Monuments, (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2011)
Sedore’s capsule histories of Confederate monuments in Virginia include a quick eight pages on Monument Avenue.
Kirk Savage wrote that, “public monuments do not arise as if by natural law to celebrate the deserving; they are built by people with sufficient power to marshal (or impose) public consent for their erection.” The following readings explore the origins of the statues on Monument Avenue, and their changing meaning over time.
Matthew Mace Barbee, Race and Masculinity in Southern Memory: History of Richmond’s Monument Avenue, 1948-1996, (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2013)
This broad history of Monument Avenue considers the larger political contexts that governed perceptions of Monument Avenue after 1948. Of particular interest is Barbee’s analysis of the Matthew Fontain Maury monument in Chapter 2 and his look behind the scenes of the public debate over the Arthur Ashe monument in 1994 in Chapter 7.
- Melanie L. Buffington and Erin E. Waldner, Defending and De-fencing: Approaches for Understanding the Social Functions of Public Monuments and Memorials, The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (32), 1-13.
Buffington and Waldner use the Lee Monument and a memorial in Budapest, Hungary, to explore the “social functions of monuments,” and feature a discussion of graffiti and yarn bombs on Monument Avenue.
John Coski, (video) Exploring the Lost Cause through Virginia’s Confederate Monuments, (The American Civil War Museum, April 21, 2016.)
Museum historian John Coski demonstrates how Virginia’s Confederate monuments reveal the choices made by memorialists as they decided how and what to remember about the Civil War — and what to forget.
John M. Coski, A Memorial to a Man and a Cause: The Tortuous Tale of the Jefferson Davis Monument, (The American Civil War Museum Magazine, Spring 2017.)
The back-story of the Jefferson Davis monument is more complex than most. Conceived originally as one city’s tribute to the Confederacy’s only president, it grew to be the project of the entire former Confederacy; it took 17 years to complete, changed location and design three times, and involved a surprising amount of debate, even among the like-minded group of white Southerners dedicated to honoring Jefferson Davis.
Sarah Shields Driggs, Richard Guy Wilson, and Robert Winthrop, Richmond’s Monument Avenue, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001)
This coffee-table book is the most detailed history of Monument Avenue available. The authors trace the development of the statues and the Monument Avenue neighborhood from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century.
Kathy Edwards, Esme Howard, and Toni Prawl, Monument Avenue: History and Architecture, (Washington, D.C.: Historic American Building Survey, 1992)
This Historic American Buildings Survey focuses on the buildings along Monument Avenue and features “the historical context and physical development of Monument Avenue…the avenue’s unique social dynamics [and] an overview of its architectural character.”
- Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth Century America, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999)
A broad examination of how Americans told the story of slavery and emancipation in public spaces in the late nineteenth century. Chapter 5 describes the origins and development of the Robert E. Lee monument and makes key insights into the ways artistic representation embodied cultural assumptions about race, class, and command in Post-War America.
MONUMENTS AND MEMORY TODAY
Sanford Levinson notes that, “the most important question is what happens to public space when the political and cultural cleavages within a society are fully manifested.” These readings contemplate how history has worked, and continues to work, to create exclusive and inclusive public memory; and hint at the larger transformations that shape the twenty-first century memorial landscape.
- Fitzhugh Brundage,The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory, (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005)
Brundage’s book traces the ways that black and white southerners after the Civil War created competing memories of slavery and emancipation. Chapter 3, in particular, explores the impulse of white elites to craft an exclusive history through the creation of archives and museums.
Kevin M. Levin, What Richmond Has Gotten Right About Interpreting Its Confederate History, Smithsonian.com, May 18, 2017
Levin ponders why Richmond “locals have remained largely quiet” about their Confederate history while New Orleans and Charlottesville have taken more dramatic steps, and attributes it to the city’s ongoing and multi-dimensional conversations and approaches to reassessing its own past.
Mason B. Williams, The Crumbling Monuments of the Age of Marble, The Atlantic, December 6, 2015.
Historian Williams’ essay notes that the preferred method of public memorialization prior to the mid-twentieth century—the embodiment of national virtues in prominent men—could not be sustained in the late twentieth century marked by multiculturalism and the decline of traditional authority. Instead, the interests of corporate benefactors increasingly define public space.
Sanford Levinson, Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies, (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998)
This extended essay considers Confederate monuments, including Monument Avenue, in a world where alterations to public memory usually accompany changes in regimes. Confederate monuments, however, came under scrutiny after additions to the southern polity after the Civil Rights movement. Levinson, a legal scholar, ponders the place of monuments in a representative democracy, through the lens of Constitutional law.
BackStory, (podcast) Contested Landscapes: The Battle Over Confederate Monuments, June 16, 2017.
BackStory is a radio program and podcast that brings historical perspectives to current events. This episode features interviews with historians and newspapermen about Monument Avenue and Confederate flags.
LIGHTNING RODS FOR CONTROVERSY SYMPOSIUM
On February 25, 2017 the American Civil War Museum hosted a symposium on Civil War monuments. Each presentation, and a panel discussion, is available on C-Span’s American History TV.
- Christy Coleman, Monuments, Markers, Museums, and the Landscape of Civil War Memory
- Thomas J. Brown, The Invention of the Soldier Monument
- Timothy S. Sedore, Words, Breath, Text and Landscape: Virginia Civil War Monuments in the Context of Tennessee and Mississippi Monumentation
- Ervin Jordan, Monument Man: Robert E. Lee: America’s Most Honored Traitor
- James Loewen, Confederate Monuments: Modest Proposals
- Panel Discussion on Civil War Monuments