Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Race and Masculinity in Southern Memory: History of Richmond, Virginia's Monument Avenue, 1948-1996

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Race and Masculinity in Southern Memory: History of Richmond, Virginia's Monument Avenue, 1948-1996

Article excerpt

Race and Masculinity in Southern Memory: History of Richmond, Virginia's Monument Avenue, 1948-1996. By Matthew Mace Barbee. New Studies in Southern History. (Lanham, Md., and other cities: Lexington Books, 2014. Pp. [x], 197. $85.00, ISBN 978-0-7391-8771-5.)

In Race and Masculinity in Southern Memory: History of Richmond, Virginia's Monument Avenue, 1948-1996, Matthew Mace Barbee explores the "great symbolic significance" of Richmond's Monument Avenue between the beginning of the civil rights movement and the creation of a monument to

remember Richmond native and groundbreaking African American tennis star and social activist Arthur Ashe Jr. in 1996 (p. 1).

That the thought of an Ashe monument sharing space with the monuments to the heroes of the Lost Cause could even be entertained said much about the transformation that had taken place in Richmond during the second half of the twentieth century. Barbee traces social and political movements, showing the demographic and political changes that led to African American leadership in the city. He also charts the fractures within this group, revealing a complex set of ideas and ideologies within Richmond's black political class. Most important, he examines in some detail the impact of Governor L. Douglas Wilder's pro-business, neoliberal brand of politics. In doing so Barbee lays the foundation for a thorough analysis of the debate over the installation of the Ashe monument.

Barbee analyzes this debate well, and the study feels rooted in the analytical framework of race, class, and politics. However, the integration of gender as an analytical tool is less fully realized. It is clear that the Ashe monument is about Ashe and constructed maleness. But in Barbee's telling this maleness seems to be more clearly linked to race, memory, and politics than to an ongoing conversation about the construction of gender across time. To understand fully how central gender was to the changing imagined landscape of Monument Avenue and to the political arena in which the debate played out, we need to know more about how Richmonders' ideas of manhood and womanhood were defined, debated, and remade between 1948 and 1996, and these changing ideals need to be woven into the social and political narrative more thoroughly. …

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