Johnny Reb, the bronze Confederate soldier who has stood, musket in hand, outside the Albemarle County Courthouse since 1909, has been replaced by a patch of hay.
After the Unite the Right rally accelerated the national debate over Confederate monuments, Charlottesville finally took down one of our own. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted to remove Johnny Reb, officially known as “At Ready,” earlier this summer, and on Saturday morning a truck arrived to haul off the Lost Cause relic. A small crowd gathered to watch as the crew’s yellow ropes slowly lowered Johnny Reb off his pedestal.
The removal revealed a time capsule encased in concrete below the statue’s concrete plinth. Charlottesville Tomorrow found an old Daily Progress clipping in which the monument’s erectors declared that the capsule shall remain untouched “until the angel Gabriel shall put one foot on the land and one in the sea, and proclaim that ‘time shall be no more.’” Those plans went awry sometime in the course of the last 111 years—the capsule was breached by groundwater long ago, and when the Confederate relics contained within finally saw the light of day, they were so waterlogged as to be almost unrecognizable.
UVA religious studies professor Jalane Schmidt, who has spent years researching Johnny Reb and lobbying for his removal, says “it was a relief” to see the statue come down. “It’s gratifying to see public opinion shift, especially among elected leaders,” she says.
Still, Schmidt has serious concerns about the monument’s future. As per the new law, these Confederate statues must be offered to a museum rather than just melted down. A dubious list of organizations volunteered to take Johnny Reb, including the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In the end, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted to send him to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, a New Market-based public history organization with a checkered record: In February, C-VILLE wrote a story about the foundation’s (unsuccessful) attempt to secure state funding for a Black history museum, despite the all-white board neglecting to consult any Black people about it. Last year, the foundation actually installed a new Confederate monument on a Winchester battlefield.
Schmidt says we’ve “disposed of our toxic waste” elsewhere, but that plan “doesn’t bode well for the disrupting of the transmission of Lost Cause narratives.”
Quote of the week
“Our work is not done…The forces of destruction who didn’t want him to go are alive and well and in our midst.”
—UVA professor and activist Larycia Hawkins, at a ceremony held to cleanse and reclaim the former site of the Johnny Reb statue
Richardson rolls out
City Manager Tarron Richardson, the most powerful individual in Charlottesville’s municipal government, resigned Friday afternoon. The move won’t come as a surprise to those who have followed his tenure here. Richardson, City Council, and other city officials have repeatedly clashed during budget discussions and in the course of regular business. After helming the city government for 16 months, Richardson’s severance package includes a year’s salary: $205,000. City Attorney John Blair will step in as interim while a search is conducted.
UVA’s Board of Visitors voted this week to remove the statue of George Rogers Clark from the Corner. The monument, which shows Clark and his men attacking Native Americans, has been the site of several protests this summer—one activist even tried to saw Clark’s head off, but couldn’t make it through the metal neck. The BOV also agreed to strip the names of slaveholders Curry and Withers from university buildings and “contextualize” the Jefferson statue outside the Rotunda.
Early voting in Virginia begins this Friday, September 18. Get registered online or at the registrar’s office, grab your ID, and make your way to the polls as soon as possible. This is the big one, folks.