In Which Gabriel Has Risen Again!

Published:December 16, 2011 by Brendan Wolfe

It’s a tough time for Civil War monuments, apparently. On December 11, NBC29 in Charlottesville reported that the city’s equestrian Robert E. Lee monument had been vandalized, possibly by the Occupy protestors who had been living in the surrounding park. One historian declared this to be “a stupid and disturbing act.” It certainly was witless, especially compared to what someone has done in Richmond:

Sometime yesterday—at least that’s when anyone first noticed—three different plaques were installed at each monument [to J. E. B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis].

Each plaque details the story of individuals involved with the Civil Rights movement …

Those individuals are Barbara Johns, who led the Moton School Strike in 1951; Richard and Mildred Loving, whose marriage caused panic in Virginia and a Supreme Court decision in Washington, D.C.; and Gabriel, an enslaved man in Henrico County who was hanged on the accusation of having planned a slave uprising. (More here.)

I’m not prepared to say that a slave in 1800 ought to be considered for membership in a movement that began 150 years after his death, but I get the idea. These are all folks who haven’t tended to get monuments in Virginia. Which is to say they’re not riding horses. Or white. What’s interesting, though, is that in Richmond has chosen to call the thingamajiggies attached to the statues “street art,” rather than vandalism. And while a police officer has said they are coming down soon, no governmental agency seems to want to actually do it.

The Richmond City Police said to call the Capitol Police, who said to call the Richmond City Police … Maybe Governor McDonnell, still feeling apologetic after the whole Confederate History Month kerfuffle, is the one who put them on there in the first place!

IMAGES: Top: A dedication to Gabriel attached to the Stonewall Jackson monument in Richmond (Alix Bryan, CBS6 News, Richmond); bottom: the vandalized Lee statue in Charlottesville (NBC29, Charlottesville)