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The last city-owned Confederate monument is being removed in Richmond, Va.


The city of Richmond, Va., is almost done removing dozens of statues of Confederate monuments. It's a process that was set in motion two years ago, after demonstrators began toppling them during racial justice protests. Jahd Khalil of VPM News brings us this story about the removal this week of the very last city-owned statue.

JAHD KHALIL, BYLINE: On this cold Monday morning, dozens of students are watching history from Richmond's North Side neighborhood.


KHALIL: Workers are removing a statue of Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill, known here as A.P. Hill. Virginia had to pass a state law to remove most statues, but this last one was different. That's because the general's remains are believed to be inside. School administrator Alana Smith (ph) says the occasion was a chance for a hard conversation with her students.

ALANA SMITH: This was really a beautiful opportunity to say, hey, something amazing is happening. Let's talk about it.

KHALIL: Months ago, indirect descendants of Hill's challenged the city's plans for the statue. A judge sided with the city last week. This isn't the first time these remains were moved. The last time was in 1891, when Confederate descendants were trying to write their version of history.

CHRISTINA VIDA: They use monuments as part of this misinformation campaign...

KHALIL: Christina Vida is the curator of the Valentine Museum in Richmond.

VIDA: ...To really twist the public's understanding and perception of the cause for the Civil War, which was, of course, slavery.

KHALIL: Confederate monuments eventually became a symbol of the city of Richmond. Monroe Harris is the acting director of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

MONROE HARRIS: Being African American, and someone taking you to see some Confederate generals - it just - it was mind-blowing.

KHALIL: Harris remembers taking a tour of the city when he first arrived in 1988. The first stop at Monument Avenue left him aghast, he says.

HARRIS: We had never seen monuments that large.

KHALIL: The city gave the Black History Museum ownership of all the monuments removed in 2020. Harris says they're taking the responsibility seriously.

HARRIS: We hopefully will do the best thing to hopefully put them in a context that is acceptable and thoughtful for everybody.

KHALIL: Back at the site of the removal, the smell of burning metal wafts down into the crowd. A crane lifts the statue onto a nearby flatbed truck. School administrator Alana Smith stands with her students.

SMITH: Some of them are asking, you know, now that the statue's come down, what can we put up instead?

KHALIL: That's a question the city is working out. Another question - what will be the ultimate fate of A.P. Hill and his fellow statues? Museum curators are seeking community input on that. For now, they say just the fact that they're gone is something the city can be proud of.

For NPR News, I'm Jahd Khalil in Richmond.


Jahd Khalil