Friday, July 1, 2022

The Confederate memorial in Williamsburg is no more

The confederate monument in Bicentennial Park was removed Monday morning. (WYDaily/Alexa Doiron)
The confederate memorial in Bicentennial Park was removed Monday morning. (WYDaily/Alexa Doiron)

The city of Williamsburg removed the Confederate memorial in Bicentennial Park Monday morning.

The monument was removed by local contractors and moved into a storage facility, said Nicole Trifone, the city’s spokeswoman.

Removal of the monument cost approximately $8,000.

Trifone said the removal of the monument aligns with plans presented by the City Council during a public hearing in July, when the body voted to remove the confederate memorial after a long debate discussing its history and purpose. 

“I think that the council and the city recognized what the monument meant to our citizens and so by removing it we’re conforming to the desires of the community,” said Mayor Doug Pons.

Virginia state code requires a locality to wait at least 30 days before removing the monument and offering it to other organizations.

The monument was originally erected in 1908 by the Daughters of the Confederacy and was dedicated to the Williamsburg and James City County Confederate soldiers and sailors. It was moved in 2000 to the park.

It had been vandalized with markings involving the Black Lives Matter movement in the past few months.

During the July public hearing, City Council agreed to conditions between the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who originally contributed to the monument’s funding, which allowed the organization the opportunity to find a new home for the monument.

The Daughters must do so before Jan. 31, 2021 or the monument will be considered “abandoned” and the city will dispose of it.

Trifone said the Daughters continue to express interest in taking possession of the monument.

No other entities have expressed interest in taking possession of the memorial.

Trifone said the city also posted a public notice July 14 stating it would consider offers from other “qualified entities.” But interested parties needed to contact the city before Aug. 17.

A representative of United Daughters of the Confederacy did not immediately respond for comment.

York-James City-Williamsburg NAACP branch President Brian Smalls referred WYDaily in a text message to the organization’s Facebook post from July 13, which showed an email sent from the branch to the Williamsburg City Council members.

Smalls wrote the Confederate monuments were part of an effort to remind Black Americans “as to their place in American society” with many of them erected during the Jim Crow Era.

The memorial to confederate soldiers and sailors has stood in Bicentennial Park since 2000. (WYDaily/Alexa Doiron)
The memorial to confederate soldiers and sailors has stood in Bicentennial Park since 2000. (WYDaily/Alexa Doiron)

“As we have seen these monuments come down in communities elsewhere, it is time for the City of Williamsburg to follow suit and remove these relics of the past that conjures up so many horrible memories not just for Black Americans, but for many Americans,” he wrote in the July 13 email. The removal of the Confederate monument would be a symbolic gesture that we are trying to move on and heal an open wound in our nation’s history.”

He added the monuments would “be a step in the right direction” but it was important to address systemic issues such as “police brutality against Blacks,” overhauling the criminal justice system and fixing the housing situation.

Other issues Smalls mentioned in the email was promoting equity in education, changing health care based on socioeconomic status, the threat of environmental discrimination and wages of minority populations since they make less than their white counterparts.

“I implore each and every one of you to go beyond acts of symbolism and do the hard work of actual change to the societal impediments that for too long have been accepted and to quote one of Williamsburg’s native sons, “that’s just the way it is,” he added. “Do what you can on the local level to see that the above discussed issues become relics of the past just like the Confederate monuments.”

It’s unclear if Smalls knew the memorial had been removed.

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Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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