Thursday, December 8, 2022

City council has no plans to revisit 2015 decision on Norfolk Civil War monuments

According to the Norfolk Historical Society, there are three Civil War monuments at different locations throughout the city. (Courtesy of the City of Norfolk)

NORFOLK – In the aftermath of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, cities throughout the nation have called to take their own Confederate monuments down.

What’s the fate of similar monuments in Norfolk? They’re staying put, according to city spokesperson Lori Crouch.

Crouch told Southside Daily on Tuesday that during their 2015 fall retreat, city council chose to keep Norfolk’s three monuments in place. Crouch said city council is currently on their summer retreat, and, as of Tuesday, there are no formal plans to revisit the city’s 2015 decision.

A Facebook event called “Disrupt Confederate Monuments,” which appears to have been created by a group calling themselves Disrupt Norfolk VA, surfaced on Tuesday afternoon. The event page reads:

“Johnny Reb is not welcome here. Norfolk’s Confederate monument first erected in 1908 and re-erected in 1971 is nothing more than a symbol of oppression.”

According to the Norfolk Historical Society, each of the city’s three monuments is dedicated differently.

The downtown monument, with a statue of “Johnny Reb” – a personification of a Confederate soldier – at the intersections of Main Street and Commercial Place adjacent to the Bank of America building is a monument to honor the “Confederate dead.” Permission for the monument’s construction was originally granted on Jan. 28, 1898 after enough funds were raised for its completion.

The historical society said the cornerstone of the Confederate monument was laid the following year on Feb. 22, 1898 – 32 years after Jefferson Davis’ inauguration as the president of the Confederacy.

The word “SHAME” was spray painted on a Confederate monument in Norfolk. (Courtesy of the Norfolk Police Department)

In May, the downtown Confederate monument was vandalized when the word “shame” was painted in bright yellow paint across the front of the memorial.

Another monument, located in West Point Cemetery, is dedicated to African-American Civil War Army and Navy veterans. According to information provided by Crouch, the memorial monument was inspired by a former slave and quartermaster, James E. Fuller, who served in the First United States Colored Cavalry.

Fuller was an employee of the Norfolk Customs House and helped secure burial space for black Union veterans in West Point Cemetery, according to the historical society.

Another memorial, located in Elmwood Cemetery, is dedicated to the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Neimeyer-Shaw Chapter 595. The monument originally stood in the Berkley neighborhood but was later moved to Elmwood Cemetery in 1987.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated this topic was last discussed during the 2016 retreat.

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