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Navigating Richmond's Monument Avenue with Students: A Powerful Resource

RobertELeeMonumentAveNamed one of the Ten Great Streets in the United States by the American Planning Association, Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia is a must-see destination when planning a school trip to Richmond.  The tree-lined avenue, recognized as a National Historic Landmark District, is home to several museums, churches, stately homes, and most notably, statues honoring American Civil War Confederate Soldiers like Virginia-native Robert E. Lee and others.  


Consequently, Monument Avenue is not without controversy.  The city of Richmond is currently engaged in civil discussions over whether or not to take down the Confederate statues, prompting the creation of a city-wide commission in 2017.  These discussions of how to remember a complicated past are not unlike the discussions that take place within our history classrooms in school; the issues are complex and rarely clear-cut.  


So what do you do if you’re taking your class on a trip to Richmond?  How should we as teachers and trip leaders best help our students navigate America’s past?


To help our students explore the complex history of Monument Avenue, the American Civil War Museum offers resources for teachers and visitors on their newly-created website.  


The mission?

 

“At the American Civil War Museum, we see the complex, messy, and multifaceted history these monuments represent. Ultimately, history is never static, but always present. Each generation asks different questions of the past, and each generation finds different answers to make sense of the world it occupies. Our generation is no different. We believe that conversation rooted in evidence-based history is the best guide to discerning our place, and our future, in an alive and evolving narrative.”


The website includes a blog series that explores the “ways the statues on Monument Avenue contributed to larger discussions about defeat, politics, race, and tourism.”


The website also includes online exhibit that allows students to interact with primary documents and photographs from the American Civil War Museum, the Library of Virginia, and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. 


The Museum also offers a select reading list, highly recommended for teachers and trip leaders embarking on a trip to Richmond.


At NationsClassroom, we see this website being helpful to students in the following ways:

  • Use before the school trip as a way to activate and create prior knowledge.  We know that laying a strong foundation of knowledge before a trip can make that trip all the more impactful.
  • Use after the school trip to continue to follow the Commission's recommendations for the city and follow the on-going debate as a way to integrate high-interest non-fiction news articles in the classroom.
  • Use as a resource for students who are unable to travel as a means to explore Richmond from the classroom.

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