Richmond Is at a Crossroads. Will Arthur Ashe Boulevard Point the Way?Breaking News
tags: Confederacy, Richmond, renaming
I wasn’t ready.
As a reporter, I had seen death at the hands of street gangs, and life in the hands of a surgeon placing a new heart into the chest of a 10-month-old boy.
But nothing had ever made me feel like this.
My arms grew hot, prickly. My legs would not move. My stomach cramped. Was I going to throw up? I felt sweat on my forehead. Tears pooled in my eyes. They were tears of sadness, then despair, finally anger.
I had tried to prepare myself: “It’s only going to be a statue.”
But when I looked up and saw it, bronze and nearly three stories tall — Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson sternly astride his horse in the middle of a Richmond intersection — I lost my moorings.
This is the Civil War capital of the Confederacy. I count slaves among my ancestors. This also is the birthplace and childhood home of my idol, Arthur Ashe, the first African-American on the United States Davis Cup team and, so far, the only black man to win the singles championship at Wimbledon, at the Australian Open and at the United States Open.
My son, Ashe, 8, is named after him.
Early this year, amid opposition and racial tension, the Richmond City Council decided to rename Boulevard, one of its most historic thoroughfares, after Arthur Ashe. When new street signs are unveiled on Saturday, it will become Arthur Ashe Boulevard. It will slice across Monument Avenue, known for its outsized statues of Confederate generals, at the very intersection where I was staring into the face of Stonewall Jackson.
Arthur Ashe Boulevard will cut through an avenue of ghosts, not all of them friendly. Richmond is checkered with bronze and stone tributes to the Lost Cause. At a time when this country is at a crossroads, this will become an intersection where the sordid, sinful and divisive past meets an inclusive, hopeful vision for the future. Symbolically, it will ask the question: Which way are we going?
Which way, Richmond? Which way, America?
comments powered by Disqus
- Trump administration says joint UNC, Duke Middle East Studies program portrays Islam too positively
- What White Kids Learn About Race in School
- Frederick Douglass photos smashed stereotypes. Could Elizabeth Warren selfies do the same?
- Chronicling New York’s Muslim History
- New Documents Illuminate The University of Texas’s Secret Strategy to Keep Out Black Students
- Women Scientists Were Written Out of History. It’s Margaret Rossiter’s Lifelong Mission to Fix That
- Allen C. Guelzo Reviews Sidney Blumenthal's Latest Installment of His Biography of Lincoln
- What Reconstruction-Era Laws Can Teach Our Democracy: The NY Times Reviews Eric Foner's Latest Book
- Should historians read their own book?
- Cokie Roberts, Pioneering Journalist Who Helped Shape NPR, Dies At 75