There is nearly universal agreement that Charlottesville needs to expand its history. The question is how to tell the stories?
Ideas have included a virtual tour by smartphone, more bronze tablets — and our own Steven Strumlauf’s contribution.
That is: a stone mosaic laid in a winding path around our monuments, expressing historic quotes. The mosaic would tell history in the words of the participants, challenging the reader; engaging and educating.
A mosaic could be a community project, with schoolchildren doing the artwork under the supervision of the designer. And it can change, evolve with our understanding of history.
Other ideas we have heard (not all of them equally worthy in our view, but still):
Booker T. Washington
To improve existing Booker T. Washington Park with needed information about its namesake, the great American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States; founder of the Tuskeegee Institute. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community. Washington was from the last generation of black American leaders born into slavery and became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants. He grew up a slave child in Franklin County, Va., and after Emancipation traveled with his mother to find his father in West Virginia, near Charleston. Determined to get an education, he walked most of the 500 miles across West Virginia and Virginia to attend school at the Hampton Institute including the Three Chopt Road, now our Downtown Mall. He was a lifelong friend of Charlottesville's Benjamin Tonsler (who has his own park named after him), and stayed at Tonsler's home on his way to assume the presidency of Tuskeegee Institute. More about Washington.
An American social activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement, politician, professor and writer. Bond was elected to four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and later to six terms in the Georgia State Senate, serving a combined twenty years in both legislative chambers. From 1998 to 2010, he was chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. A professor at the University of Virginia who lived his last years in Charlottesville. Trustee Elliott Harding says: "[Bond] would be a sharp contrast to what we see and think of when you see Lee or Jackson or any of these Confederate memorials. We need to recognize where we live today and send a signal to future residents to show how far we’ve come. [Bond] fought for his people even when that meant speaking against government. You could see that in [Thomas] Jefferson, [James] Monroe, and you saw it with Lee and Jackson.” More about Bond.
Ulysses S. Grant
The Union General who defeated Lee. He said of his Confederate adversaries at the conclusion of his memoirs: "[l]et [us] hope for perpetual peace and harmony with that enemy, whose manhood, however mistaken the cause, drew forth such herculean deeds of valor." One idea (proposed in a letter to the editor in the Daily Progress) was to put a new statue of Grant in what is now Lee Park, and rename it Civil War Park. We don't actually endorse the idea, but include it as an example of creative thinking. More about Grant.
York was an African-American slave who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Inherited by William Clark from his father, York participated on the expedition as a scout and hunter. Like many other expedition members, his ultimate fate is not well documented. It is said that Clark freed York sometime after 1815 and gave him a wagon and horses for a freighting venture that eventually did not pan out, and that York probably died of disease sometime after 1822. Certainly York is an uplifting figure worthy of note. But whether his adventures are representative of the usual life of a slave, and whether a statue of him would be better suited for the existing Lewis & Clark Center in Albemarle County's Darden Towe Park, or somewhere in the city, will be debated. More about York.
The Newfoundland who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the only animal to make it all the way across the country and back. Captain Lewis was proud of his intrepid dog, mentioning in his journal his refusal of a Shawnee's offer of "three beverskins for my dog," and that the Lemhi Shoshoni (Sacagewea's tribe) were astounded at the dog's "segacity." Lewis named a large creek near Missoula, Montana Seaman's Creek. The statue would overlook the Darden Towe dog park, by the Lewis and Clark Center. More about Seaman.
Speakers at the Blue Ribbon public forum advocated including a monument to Queen Charlotte, in eponymous Charlottesville. She is said to be directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. A PBS Frontline report spoke of her “unmistakable African appearance.” More about Queen Charlotte.
A running narrative of the African American experience including several historical figures (suggested during the first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race and Public Spaces). A mural would be visually striking, less costly than a bronze statue, and more easily altered as time goes by. On the other hand it's ease of creation and painted impermanence may argue against it: murals can range from respected artwork to graffitti.