Graffiti-riddled Jefferson Davis statue on display at The Valentine

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Jefferson Davis statue that once towered over Monument Avenue is now on display at The Valentine Museum in Richmond.

On June 10, 2020, protestors tied a rope around the Confederate statue and pulled it from atop its pedestal. For two years, the structure has been under a tarp in storage.

On Wednesday, curators at the Valentine unveiled the statue to the public as part of The Valentine’s core exhibit, “This Is Richmond, Virginia.”

“We’re able now to tell the full story that happened here in Richmond,” Christina Vida, Valentine curator said. “We have other objects in our collection that tell the story of oppression, but we don’t have other powerful objects that tell the real story of what happened here in 2020.” 

In the exhibit, the 8-foot structure is lying on its side, still splattered with pink latex paint. Jefferson’s face is still spray-painted black, and there are remnants of tissue where protestors made a noose.

“We want to make sure that our visitors are seeing a 2020 object, so we wanted to make sure that the paint stayed applied and the damage that occurred when protestors pulled it down stays that way,” Vida said.

Jefferson Davis statue on display at the Valentine Museum (Autumn Childress, 8News)

A survey of Richmond community members by the Valentine showed that 80% of respondents want to see Confederate monuments in museums with appropriate context, rather than displayed in public spaces or destroyed.

Josh Epperson, a co-curator for the exhibit, said this is an opportunity to educate the public on the history of Richmond and “The Lost Cause” narrative.

“These objects are very powerful and they can be very painful for a lot of people,” Epperson said. “I don’t think that we should forget them. If they stayed in storage, a child born today may not have any idea how bad it really was.” 

The bronze statue was designed by Edward Valentine in a studio that still sits in the courtyard of the museum.

After protestors pulled it down, it was donated to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia (BHMVA) by the City of Richmond. The Valentine will temporarily house the statue for six months.

In the meantime, organizers are encouraging the public to offer feedback on what’s next for the statue.

“This is a critical time to have a conversation about our shared history and light the path forward,” Valentine Director Bill Martin said. “We want to create a safe space for people to learn, be challenged and confront their assumptions and biases about Richmond’s troubling past.”

To give all members of the Richmond community an opportunity to participate in the exhibit, the Valentine will offer free admission every Wednesday as long as the statute is on display.

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