Doug Wilder on Monument Avenue: Spend money on schools first


RICHMOND, Va. — Former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder made history in the 1990s when he became the first African-American politician elected governor of any state.

Now, nearly 30 years later, he is making his opinion known about Richmond’s most famous street – Monument Avenue.

“Monument Avenue is Monument Avenue,” Wilder, the grandson of slaves, said during an appearance on C-SPAN. “When I was a kid, I knew what it represented, what it meant, I knew it was where I was not supposed to go, not supposed to live.”

Once elected governor, Wilder said he wanted to make certain Monument Avenue started to represent all Americans.

“That’s why I worked as hard as I could to to get the statue of Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue,” he said. “Some people would say, ‘Why do you want that on Monument Avenue?’ And I said because that’s where people have put those that they revere, where they honor.”

The current debate among city leaders in Richmond is over what to do with Monument Avenue. Some would like to see monuments erected to Confederate figures removed. Others argue the monuments should stay as they represent Richmond’s history.

Wilder, who said he believed ‘reasonable minds’ would emerge from the on-going discussions, added any money spent on removing monuments would be better spent educating the children of Richmond.

“With the problems that we have in our country today, the problems we have in our schools today… it is more important to improve the quality of education now, spending taxpayers’ dollars more wisely now, on the kinds of things that we need to do now, then this talk about destroying and taking down,” he said. “If you are speaking about spending millions of dollars at this time, Richmond Schools need that money first. Then you can talk about other kinds of things like removing and getting rid of.”