Apr 25

Redesign Monument Avenue

Source – Wikimedia.org

Possible Unit(s) of Discussion:

Civil War

How to use in the classroom: 

Given that I have lived in Richmond for my entire life and I wrote my college thesis on the public reaction to the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue, I don’t know why it has taken me so long to come up with this assignment. I saw this video earlier today, which I could see being used as a “hook” for a variety of assignments:

1. Have students read the dedication speech for Robert E. Lee’s monument (which was the first monument to be built). Then, have the students read a reaction to that speech.

  • Archer Anderson’s Dedication to Lee’s Monument:

Have the students compare/contrast the documents using the following questions:

  • Based on evidence within the document, what is the author’s view/perception of Monument Avenue? (What is its purpose, what will be its legacy, etc.)
  • Based on evidence within the document, what is the author’s view/perception of the Civil War? (Why did it begin, what is its legacy, etc.)
  • Based on evidence within the document, how would this person want the Civil War to be remembered?

Students could also read a 1995 newspaper article that discusses the addition of the Arthur Ashe monument to Monument Avenue. Possible questions for this article include:

  • What were the arguments for/against the addition of the Arthur Ashe statue to Monument Avenue?
  • Thinking about the individuals who were quoted in the article, how do you believe they would perceive Monument Avenue and the Civil War?How would each of these individuals want the war to be remembered?


2. One quote from the aforementioned video really stood out to me: “Monument Avenue has never been about the Confederacy. It is more about the celebration of heroes.” Students could evaluate the validity of this statement using the aforementioned documents.


3. An idea for a performance task at the end of a Civil War Unit:

“In light of the approaching 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, your job is to redesign Monument Avenue. Based on what you have learned about the war, your job is to create a variety of monuments (4-5) that capture the essence of the war and determine how it should be remembered. Justify your design choices based on what you know about the Civil War and its legacy, and determine appropriate locations for these monuments within the Richmond area.”

Students could use GoogleEarth/Maps in order to plan appropriate monument sites and use Google Sketchup for the design process.

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