St. Paul’s Richmond, once known as the Cathedral of the Confederacy, is removing or rededicating all remaining Confederate memorials. The decision came in a June the 14th meeting of the vestry. In 2015 the church removed all memorials depicting the Confederate battle flag. St. Paul’s is adjacent to the State House. Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee attended church there during the Civil War.
To be rededicated, not removed, are three large stain-glassed windows, two that are memorials to Robert E. Lee and one that is a memorial to Jefferson Davis.
The City of Richmond, under an emergency order by the mayor, in recent weeks removed memorials to Jefferson Davis, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson and several other Confederate memorials on city-owned property. There is a court injunction against the governor’s order to remove the Lee Monument on state-owned property. Richmond has been the site of continued protests this summer against racial injustice.
The memorials in the city, and in St. Paul’s, were part of a Jim Crow-era campaign lead by groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy to frame the Lost Cause as a noble cause rather than a cause to preserve chattel slaves of blacks.
The three windows in the St. Paul’s sanctuary are allegorical representations that served Lost Cause tropes. One, dedicated to Lee, shows a young Moses rejecting Pharoah’s offer of power and wealth, just as Lee rejected high command in the Union Army in order to take command of the Army of Virginia. Another shows Paul in bondage with the text, “this man doeth not deserve death or bondage” — a reference to the imprisonment of Jefferson Davis.
The congregation is in a period of discernment around what rededication of the Lee and Davis windows means. The goal is to give the windows new meanings relevant to how the church sees itself today, a church that can become a place of reconciliation.
Allowing for the complications presented by the pandemic, more specifics are expected in the coming months.
See also this page on the History & Reconciliation Initiative at St. Paul’s.
Several school districts in Virginia have heeded or are considering the governor’s call to rename schools named for Confederate icons or leaders of Massive Resistance to school integration.