Stonewall Jackson descendants call for Richmond monument's removal
The great-great-grandson of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson said Thursday the monument to the legendary Confederate general and others in Virginia's capital city were constructed as symbols of white supremacy and should be taken down.
Jack Christian told The Associated Press that he used to be open to the idea that the statues on Richmond's famed Monument Avenue - which memorialize southern Civil War heroes, including Jackson - might be acceptable if context were added to explain why they was built.
However, the racially charged violence in Charlottesville has shown that to be impossible, he said.
"They were constructed to be markers of white supremacy. They were constructed to make black people fearful," Christian said. "I can only imagine what persons of color who have to walk and drive by those every morning think and feel."
Jack Christian and his brother Warren Christian said in a letter to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney published by Slate on Wednesday that it is "long overdue" for the "overt symbols of white racism and white supremacy" to be removed. The men said they want to make clear that the statue — and their great-great-grandfather's actions — do not represent them.
Michael Shoop, who wrote a book on the genealogy of the Jackson family, confirmed that the men are descendants of the Confederate general.
Jack Christian told the AP that he's pleased the Richmond mayor is now saying the city will consider removing or relocating its Confederate statues. The mayor had previously said he thought the monuments should stay but have context added about what they represent and why they were built.
However, Stoney said a commission of historians, experts and community leaders appointed to study the issue will begin considering the "removal and/or relocation of some or all" of the statues in light of the events in Charlottesville, where white supremacists rallied after the city voted to remove of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
"While we had hoped to use this process to educate Virginians about the history behind these monuments, the events of the last week may have fundamentally changed our ability to do so by revealing their power to serve as a rallying point for division and intolerance and violence," Stoney said Wednesday.
Chaos erupted at the Charlottesville rally, which included neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members, and is believed to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in a decade. They clashed violently with counterdemonstrators, and after authorities ordered the crowd to disperse, a car plowed into a group of marchers, killing a woman and injuring 19 others. Two state police troopers who had been monitoring the chaos were also killed when their helicopter crashed outside the city.
The events in Charlottesville have quickened the pace of the removal of Confederate monuments across the country. Four Confederacy-related monuments were hauled away on trucks under cover of darkness late Tuesday night and early Wednesday in Baltimore. In Birmingham, Alabama, a 52-foot-tall obelisk honoring Confederate soldiers and sailors was covered by wooden panels at the mayor's order.
Jack Christian said he has heard from one relative who said she agreed with the sentiments expressed in the letter. He hopes other descendants of Confederate generals will do the same. Christian said he would like to see the statues preserved somewhere after they are removed from public display.
"While we are not ashamed of our great great grandfather, we are ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer," the brothers wrote. "We are ashamed of the monument."
Associated Press reporter Ben Finley contributed to this report from Norfolk, Virginia.