Author: RyanSmith

  • Richmond’s Berlin Wall moment

    “This is our Berlin Wall moment.” So read the chalk message on the sidewalk alongside the Robert E. Lee monument on Richmond’s Monument Avenue today. Looking up at the statue and its pedestal, I could recognize the familiar forms, but they had been transformed by the impromptu messages painted up and around its base: “Amerikkka”;…

  • A Richmond play

    Recently I’ve been corresponding with Faulker Fox, an acclaimed writer and faculty member at Duke University with deep roots in central Virginia. One of Faulkner’s most recent works is a play titled “Horse: A Richmond Story,” which grapples with contemporary debates regarding the city’s commemorative landscape including Monument Avenue as well as the installation of…

  • Hollywood during quarantine

    Last week, I made it out of the house and up to Hollywood Cemetery. This is the time of the semester that I usually walk my class through the cemetery on a field trip. But of course there is no opportunity for a field trip this semester. So I tried to recreate the experience as…

  • Pandemic shutdown, week 1

    One week ago, the schools around Richmond closed. Most businesses prepared workers for telecommuting from home or had to let them go. The healthcare industry and governments ramped up for a big wave of Covid-19 cases on the near horizon. We had all heard about the novel coronavirus outbreak in China by the start of…

  • Evergreen’s plan, and feedback

    The Enrichmond Foundation recently released its master restoration plan for Evergreen Cemetery. I am still digesting the details, but its estimated cost of $18 million seems dauntingly realistic. What is more concerning at this stage continues to be Enrichmond’s process. Executive director John Sydnor’s column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on the eve of the plan’s…

  • The book!

    It is with joy and relief that I can finally announce a publisher and a publication date for my book that grew out of this cemetery project. Death and Rebirth in a Southern City will be published by Johns Hopkins University Press in October 2020. I am grateful for the support of the press as…

  • The Future of Shockoe Bottom

    The history-laden Shockoe Bottom area of Richmond has been subject to a lot of development, proposals, and visions over the years. One of the most constructive voices in the process, the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, has put together a symposium on the subject, to be…

  • Return of the ancestral remains

    In 1994, construction workers at Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical college uncovered a shameful episode from the past when they discovered a nineteenth-century well filled with human remains. At least 44 bodies — almost all of African ancestry — had apparently been thrown into the well following their use as anatomical or surgical specimens by the…

  • RIP, Alyson

    Alyson L. Taylor-White passed away on June 15, 2019. This is a hard loss, and the community will miss her dearly. I’ll remember Alyson for many things. I first met her in 2015 when she signed a contract with The History Press to publish Shockoe Hill Cemetery: A Richmond Landmark History, which she would release…

  • Woodland in the spotlight

    Woodland Cemetery is garnering renewed attention as the city of Richmond prepares to rename one of its main thoroughfares Arthur Ashe Boulevard. A public celebration is set for June 22, 2019, and all the attention on Ashe has stirred interest and brought more visitors to his resting place in Woodland. Ownership of the private cemetery…