Gov. Northam to invest $25 Million in historic justice initiatives

Posted at 6:15 PM, Dec 11, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. - Governor Ralph Northam announced Friday that his proposed budget includes over $25 million for historic justice initiatives.

He will allocate $11 million in funding to transform Monument Avenue, the historic section of Richmond that was built around Confederate statues as a permanent memorial to the Lost Cause.

The Robert E. Lee statue is expected to be the eighth confederate figure to be removed in the new year. This investment will also enable the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to hire staff and launch a community-driven initiative to redesign Monument Avenue.

According to a news release, Governor Northam believes his investment will help Virginia tell the true story of its past and continue building an inclusive future. “At a time when this Commonwealth and country are grappling with how to present a more complete and honest picture of our complex history, we must work to enhance public spaces that have long been neglected and shine light on previously untold stories,” said Northam.

Another $9 million will go towards the development of a Slavery Heritage Site and improvements to the Slave Trail in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom neighborhood.

Funding will support efforts to preserve historical sites like the Devil’s Half-Acre and Lumpkin’s Jail. The Governor's budget includes $100,000 to support the Virginia Emancipation and Freedom Monument project on Brown’s Island.

Mayor Levar Stoney said the investment will center stories of trauma and resilience that have been sidelined by proponents of slavery, the Lost Cause, and segregation.

“The Commonwealth’s support is the tool we need to commemorate and communicate Richmond’s real history and honor unjustly silenced voices,” said Stoney.

The Governor will also invest $5 million in restoring tombstones from the former Columbian Harmony Cemetery, and creating the Harmony Living Shoreline memorial.

Headstones were removed from this historic African American cemetery and relocated in 1960 to make space for commercial development, including the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Washington Metro station.

Senator Richard Stuart said that he was horrified when he learned the headstones from Columbian Harmony Cemetery were scattered along two miles of shoreline on the Potomac River.

“With the help of this funding, we will be able to return many of these to a better and more respectful resting place while creating a memorial to remember those that we are unable to remove. I deeply appreciate the Governor’s help in righting this terrible wrong,” said Stuart.

Governor Northam will share more details of his budget plan on December 16.