The Politics of Race 1950s – 1970s at the Valentine Richmond History Center
by Cesca Janece Waterfield
“Battle for the City” documents how race relations and power disparity in Richmond determined public policy, land use, and education during two decades in the 20th century. The exhibit is aptly named, and broadly shows how status quo players grappled to maintain power, as reformers sought change using quiet protest, political mobilization, and sometimes, as in riots following the assassination of Dr. King, violent flare-ups.
Photographs and images were donated by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and former News-Leader and are mounted on fabric with a heat-intensive process that gives each tableau a crisp immediacy.
Items like the office chair of Henry Marsh, Richmond’s first black Mayor, a section of Woolworth’s long-segregated lunch counter, and elements of a tollbooth help bring humanity into a topic and time of challenging scope.
“Battle for the City” doesn’t flinch from much that plagued Richmond’s 20th Century struggle for civil rights, and is weighted with a painstakingly embroidered Klan robe. Purchased by the Valentine from a Richmond area family, this element of the exhibit is a somber reminder of postures and poison that are not distant in time or geography.
A visit to “Battle for the City” will intensify personal reflection, and serve as a measuring stick to mark where progress has been made, as well as missed. Ultimately, the lessons within “Battle for the City” — the exhibit’s very existence, even — inspire hope for Richmond’s continuing struggle for a comprehensive racial dialogue, and the voices that choose to comprise it.
The Valentine will gift any resident of Richmond City, Henrico, and Chesterfield Counties who attends “Battle for the City” from now through June 30th with a free membership, a value of $45. Additionally, anyone who purchases regular admission to the History Center between now and February 2009 will also get free admission to the Black History Museum.
Battle for the City: The Politics of Race 1950s – 1970s is open through January 31, 2009 in the Center’s Massey Gallery. Underwritten by Hirschler Fleischer Attorneys at Law, and Jay M. Weinberg.