Robert E. Lee, 'Race,' Representation and Redevelopment along Richmond, Virginia's Canal Walk
Abstract

The past decade has witnessed numerous disputes concerning the South's symbolic landscapes. While many of these debates have centered on whether and where to add Civil Rights icons or remove Confederate ones, a debate took place in Richmond, Virginia in 1999 over whether to add a new Confederate symbol to the landscape of this African-American majority city. That year the city opened its new Canal Walk development project, aimed at revitalizing the city's waterfront. Among the historical displays along the Canal Walk was a large portrait of Robert E. Lee. The debate centered on whether Lee, "the white South's favorite icon," should hang on the Canal Walk's floodwall, or whether the portrait should be removed because it represented an affront to African Americans as a reminder of the Civil War and slavery. The Lee mural dispute thus continues the debate in Richmond and the South over public memory, the Civil War, power, and symbolic landscapes.