Monument Avenue has five monuments highlighting Confederate leaders that were installed between 1890-1929, plus one statue of Arthur Ashe installed in 1996:
The National Park Service description of the Monument Avenue Historic District states:1
Monuments that commemorated and celebrated Confederate leaders helped Richmond maintain its reputation as the capital of the Confederacy, but not all residents were happy with that focus. The racial mix of the city affected perspectives, and by 2017 only 40% of the population identified theselves as "White alone, not Hispanic or Latino."2
The murder of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015 spurred local leaders to re-examine how to acknowledge the past, without giving Confederate memorials their historicaly-dominant position in public spaces across Virginia. Richmond mayor Levar Stoney established a Monument Avenue Commission in June, 2017. He charged it to hold public forums to obtain feedback.
The original plan was for the commission to explore how to expand interpretation of existing monuments, and potentially add new monuments to dilute the focus on Confederate leaders. After the Unite the Right rally in Charottesville resulted in vilence and death of a demonstrator and two state policemen in August, that mission was expanded to consider removing monuments.3
Adding monuments was not a new idea. A statue of Arthur Ashe, a tennis champion from Richmond who had overcome the constraints of segregated tennis facilities, had been added to Monument Avenue in 1996. In 2017, the head of the Danville chapter of the Heritage Preservation Association was still opposed to honoring Ashe with a statue in that location, claiming that in 1996:4
The commission's July, 2018 report recommended removing the statue of Jefferson Davis, who was not from Virginia, and adding signage at other monuments to provide a broader range of perspectives on what the statues represent.5