By Taylor Boyd
After more than two years of discussion, ownership of the J.E.B. Stuart statue and pedestal will not be transferring to Patrick County – at least for now.
In late December, Gov. Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stony announced that ownership of the Stuart statue, pedestal and other artifacts located on Richmond’s Monument Avenue will be transferred to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.
In a press release, the mayor’s office said that the museum will partner with The Valentine, a museum in Richmond dedicated to the collecting, preserving, and interpreting of the city’s history, to determine the proper future use of each statue and pedestal.
“Symbols matter, and for too long, Virginia’s most prominent symbols celebrated our country’s tragic division and the side that fought to keep alive the institution of slavery by any means possible. Now it will be to our thoughtful museums, informed by the people of Virginia, to determine the future of these artifacts,” Northam said.
Stony said entrusting the future of the monuments and pedestals to the museum is the right thing to do.
“They will take the time that is necessary to properly engage the public and ensure the thoughtful future uses of these artifacts,” he said.
The J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust Inc. began working with the James Ewell Brown (J.E.B.) Stuart family in Richmond to bring the statue and pedestal to Stuart’s birthplace in Laurel Hill more than 18 months ago.
Ronnie Haynes, president of that organization, said he will follow up on this new development.
“We put in the application sometime back and the Richmond City Council still has our application, along with numerous others who have made application for the statues. I assume they still have those and will look at them,” he said.
The more than 15-feet high, seven-ton bronze statue depicts Stuart, a Confederate States Army general during the Civil War, on a horse. It is one of the only large-scale equestrian depictions of Stuart.
Haynes said the group will apply to the museum for the statue and pedestal to ensure that it is considered for the artifacts.
“We will be contacting them to see what their reply is and what the guidelines are. We haven’t closed the door on this matter,” he said.
Haynes also expects the decision over the artifacts’ future to be drawn out for quite a bit longer.
“This whole process is just dragging on and on. We wished that they would make a decision one way or another, but it’s all up in the air right now,” he said.
Haynes added the incoming state administration could bring about some changes in the acquisition process.
“We’ll just have to wait and see how the new year plays out,” he said.
Other artifacts in the same position as the Stuart monument include Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Joseph Bryan, Fizhugh Lee, Confederate Soldier and Sailors, and Ceremonial cannons.