One year since Unite the Right, how did the deadly protest affect the Valley?

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — This coming weekend marks one year since the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

This Confederate statue is commonly called the Barbee Monument after the sculptor, Herbert Barbee, according to the SVBF. It was erected in 1898.

An expert in the Valley said as the anniversary approaches, the rally can be used for a lesson.

"It's important in many ways to remember what happened in Charlottesville," said Keven Walker, the CEO of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. "To keep that as a massive point of learning as we move forward into the future."

The protest served as a flash point for the discussion of Confederate icons. Since that day, the conversation is ongoing.

Just as recently as July, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation hosted a discussion on Confederate icons. Experts and more than 100 others came to the conference.

Christy Coleman, the CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, was one of the experts who touched on the topic of what to do with Confederate statues and monuments.

"I think each community needs to make these choices for themselves," Coleman said.

After the alt-right rally, Coleman was on a panel in the capital city to decide what to do with Confederate statues along Monument Avenue. The panel came to the recommendation that one statue should come down and the other should include context, such as informational placards, nearby.

"What do they say to us," Coleman asked. "How we can potentially use them to let the world know what our community is today?"

Back home in the Valley, the Staunton City School Board has a decision of its own to make. The decision is all in the name of its high school.

Last month, there was a listening session for people in Staunton to give their thoughts on a possible new name to Robert. E. Lee High School.

"It needs to be a conversation more about what's going on in the school than possibly what the name of the school is," Walker said.

Walker said he would like to see the R.E. Lee name debate solved by a direct vote from the people of Staunton, but he finds there is something lost in the debate.

"If we don't understand these people from our past, in their totality, and in context, we're not going to have any chance at keeping our political system and keeping our society going in the future," Walker said.

The Valley is filled with Confederate icons from Staunton to Harrisonburg and Luray.

"The Valley was unique in terms of kind of leading the way for post-war reunion and healing largely driven by economic factors," said Jonathan Noyalas, the Director of Shenandoah University's McCormick Civil War Institute.

The area is the perfect stage for this type of discussion about Civil War monuments, according to Noyalas.

There is no doubt the controversy is still on the minds of so many. Walker said his foundation gets calls on the issue regularly. The CEO said for some reason, the Valley has been insulated from mass demonstrations and large-scale conflict.

"It's not with the same fury that we thought we would have felt because of being so close to Charlottesville," Walker said.

As this discussion rages on, whether it is in Charlottesville, Richmond or here in the Valley, Walker said cooler heads need to prevail.

"Keep talking to one another, that we keep this discussion going in a respectful manner," Walker said.


Common Soldier Monument, Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton. After the Civil War, Confederate dead from the battlefields of Alleghany, McDowell, Cross Keys, Port Republic and Piedmont were interred in a newly created soldiers' section in Thornrose Cemetery in Staunton. This led to the establishment in 1870 of the Augusta [County] Memorial Association, which eventually spearheaded the 1888 dedication of the cemetery's Fort Stonewall Jackson. Its centerpiece, an Italian marble statue of a Confederate infantryman, rises 22 feet above the graves of some 1,700 fallen Southern soldiers. The monument was dedicated on September 25, 1888. | Photo and description from the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
This monument sits on Chestnut Ridge in Harrisonburg, the site of the death of famed Confederate cavalry leader Gen. Turner Ashby on June 6, 1862. Ashby was killed in a skirmish (also known as the Battle of Harrisonburg) with Union troops who were pursuing Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's army as it moved towards Port Republic. Formed in December of 1897, a group known as the Turner Ashby Memorial Association (TAMA) raised funds to erect a monument in his honor on the spot of land where he was killed. The monument was unveiled and opened to the public on June 6, 1898, thirty-six years following his death. One attendee wrote that, "such was the crowd on the day of the unveiling that when the first carriage was halted in front of the monument others were still leaving town." | Photo and description from the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
Woodbine Cemetery Obelisk in Harrisonburg. | Photo and description from the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
This statue was erected in 1918. | Photo and description from the Shenandoah Battlefields Foundation. The foundation does not know of a reason for the erection of this monument.