Monument Ave Commission Announcement, Photo by Sandra Sellers, © 2020 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Governor Northam Announces Investments in Historic Justice Initiatives

Proposed budget includes nearly $25 million in new funding for transformative projects

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that his proposed budget will include nearly $25 million to transform historic sites and advance historic justice efforts. 

“These investments will ensure a more diverse and inclusive retelling of our history,” said Governor Northam. “At a time when our Commonwealth and nation are grappling with how to illustrate a more complete picture of the past, we must work to enhance our public spaces and shine light on previously untold stories.” 

This investment will include nearly $11 million to support the efforts of transforming Monument Avenue. This funding will enable the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to hire staff and launch a community-driven effort to redesign Monument Avenue. 

“For too long, Richmond’s Monument Avenue told an incomplete and inaccurate story of the city and Virginia’s past,” said Alex Nyerges, Director and CEO of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. “The funding to transform Monument Avenue will allow us to reenvision an inspirational, forward thinking, inclusive and healing place for everyone who lives in and visits our city and state.” 

“On behalf of many neighbors – this news is exciting and hopeful. We welcome a future on Monument Avenue that includes a visual expression and experience that is welcoming and inspirational to all people,” said Monument Avenue resident Alice Massie. 

Additionally, this investment includes an additional $9 million for the development of a Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site and improvements to the Slave Trail in Richmond as well as $100,000 to support the Virginia Emancipation and Freedom Monument project on Brown’s Island. This funding will support efforts to preserve the site known as the Devil’s Half-Acre, or Lumpkin’s Jail, in Shockoe Bottom as a historical site. 

“Hundreds of thousands of enslaved persons were forced to pass through Lumpkin’s Jail on the Richmond Slave Trail,” said Delegate Delores McQuinn. “It is far past time to develop a new Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site at Lumpkin’s Jail and invest in improvements to the Slave Trail, so that this important history is not forgotten.” 

“The Emancipation and Freedom Monument on Brown’s Island will commemorate the abolition of slavery and recognize numerous African American Virginians who were devoted to advancing freedom and civil rights,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan. “This funding will move this important project another step closer to becoming a reality.”

“This constitutes a massive investment in centering stories of trauma and resilience that have been sidelined by proponents of slavery, the Lost Cause, and segregation,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “The Commonwealth’s support is the tool we need to commemorate and communicate Richmond’s real history and honor unjustly silenced voices.” 

This investment will also include $5 million to support Project Harmony, an environmental justice project to address the repatriation of tombstones from the former Columbian Harmony Cemetery and the creation of the Harmony Living Shoreline memorial. These headstones were removed from Columbian Harmony Cemetery––a historic African American cemetery in Washington, D.C.––and relocated in 1960 to make way for commercial development. While some headstones were moved to a new cemetery in Landover, Maryland, others were sold off by the developer, including those that were used to create a riprap along the shore of the Potomac River. 

“I was horrified when I discovered the headstones from Columbian Harmony Cemetery scattered along two miles of shoreline on the Potomac. With the help of this funding, we will be able to return many of these to a better and more respectful resting place while creating a memorial to remember those that we are unable to remove,” said Senator Richard Stuart. 

“These are not just investments in physical space, but in the telling of our shared history,” said Delegate Lamont Bagby. “These initiatives will help us continue the effort to uncover the truth of the past.  We must finally get this right.” 

Governor Northam will address the Joint Money Committees on December 16 to share the full details of his budget plan.

About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the largest comprehensive art museums in the United States. VMFA, which opened in 1936, is a state agency and privately endowed educational institution. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret art, and to encourage the study of the arts. Through the Office of Statewide Partnerships program, the museum offers curated exhibitions, arts-related audiovisual programs, symposia, lectures, conferences, and workshops by visual and performing artists. In addition to presenting a wide array of special exhibitions, the museum provides visitors with the opportunity to experience a global collection of art that spans more than 6,000 years. VMFA’s permanent holdings encompass nearly 50,000 artworks, including the largest public collection of Fabergé outside of Russia, the finest collection of Art Nouveau outside of Paris, and one of the nation’s finest collections of American art. VMFA is also home to important collections of Chinese art, English silver, French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, British sporting, and modern and contemporary art, as well as renowned South Asian, Himalayan and African art. In May 2010, VMFA opened its doors to the public after a transformative expansion, the largest in its history. 

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is the only art museum in the United States open 365 days a year with free general admission. For additional information, telephone 804.340.1400 or visit

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