Controversial Monuments

As our nation continues to contend with racial and social justice issues, the meaning and fate of monuments that fail to represent our American ideals are being debated throughout the country. Our firm has been deeply engaged in several matters involving Confederate “Lost Cause” monuments. We proudly represent clients who seek to have monuments removed from public lands, relocated, or recontextualized in order to be able to tell fully truthful history and create a more inclusive future. Not all of our representations are public, but following are some representative examples, including three different roles played in the City of Richmond, VA, former Confederate capital and previously home to the largest and most famous assemblage of Lost Cause monuments.

Representative Engagements

Advising Richmond Mayor in the Removal of Confederate Monuments from Monument Avenue

Following social justice protests after the death of George Floyd, and fearful that protests surrounding the monuments would lead to another deadly confrontation by white supremacists, Mayor Levar Stoney sought a strategy for immediate removal of Lost Cause statues on Monument Avenue and through the city. CHP advised Mayor Stoney in the removal of thirteen city-owned Confederate monuments, recommending that he invoke his emergency powers to quickly take down the monuments in the interest of public safety. This resulted in the removal of all but one of the city-owned Confederate monuments throughout Richmond in July 2020. Legal challenges to the Mayor’s implementation of CHP’s guidance failed.

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Representing the Circle Neighbors Before the Virginia Supreme Court

Cultural Heritage Partners next represented a group of more than 50 neighbors whose homes have direct lines of sight to the Robert E. Lee Monument, formerly prominently located in what was known as Lee Circle on Monument Avenue in Richmond. Circle Neighbors supported Governor Ralph Northam’s order to immediately remove the monument, an action then challenged in the Supreme Court of Virginia. On behalf the Circle Neighbors, CHP filed an amicus brief arguing that as a matter of US historic preservation policy, the arguments for removal were sound. In September 2021, the Court issues two unanimous rulings affirming Governor Northam’s authority to remove the state-owned monument. The Lee Monument was dissembled and relocated in December 2021.

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Representing The Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia to Acquire Richmond’s Removed Confederate Monuments

In late 2021 and early 2022, our firm successfully represented the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia (BHMVA) in negotiations with the City of Richmond to acquire ownership of the Confederate monuments formerly displayed throughout the city. CHP continues to advise BHMVA on a public process that will determine the ultimate disposition of these objects. 

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Defending the City of Charleston’s Decisions To Remove Marker and Monument and Rename Site 

Cultural Heritage Partners represents the City of Charleston, SC, in three matters:

  • as part of a legal team defending the City’s decision to allow the removal a road marker dedicated to Robert E. Lee from the grounds of a local public school;
  • defending in a lawsuit following the renaming of a performing arts venue from Memminger Auditorium to Festival Hall. Christopher Memminger was a slave owner and secessionist who served as the first Confederate States Secretary of the Treasury; and
  • in a matter involving the removal of a statue of John C. Calhoun, an adamant defender of slavery, from a public square.

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Please contact our team leader: Greg Werkheiser.