RICHMOND, Va. — A day after the State of the Commonwealth, Governor Ralph Northam on Thursday announced the budget and legislative priorities for his historic justice and equity agenda.
He said historic justice is dedicated to telling a more comprehensive and inclusive story of the past, teaching history that accurately reflects the stories and experiences of everyone.
Northam proposals include lifting the Commonwealth’s prohibition on the removal of Confederate war memorials so that local governments can decide how to deal with these monuments of the past. Virginia is home to more than 220 public memorials to the Confederacy.
The governor also wants to add protections and funding for historic African American cemeteries and creates a commission to recommend a replacement for the Robert E. Lee statue in the U.S. Capitol.
To date, eight statues in the Natural Statuary Hall have been replaced, and seven additional states are working through a similar process.
A Historic African American Cemetery Grant Program was also proposed which would allow the Department of Historic Resources to certify cemeteries to receive annual maintenance funds of $5 per grave. On top of this, the governor has proposed $250,000 for the maintenance of historic African American cemeteries and the hiring of an experienced historic preservationist to focus exclusively on projects and issues involving historic and prehistoric burial grounds.
Northam this year is also pushing for a significant investment in new historical highway markers.
“Virginia’s history is difficult and complex, and it is important that we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years,” said Governor Northam. “When we have a complete understanding of how we got to the present, we are better prepared to improve our shared future. These proposals will help us to tell the story of people and places that for too long have been neglected or marginalized and continue to build a modern, diverse, and inclusive Commonwealth.”
Watch Northam's full historic justice and equity plan announcement below: