In 2020, the General Assembly changed its laws about monuments, finally allowing localities to decide if they want to remove, relocate, contextualize, or cover publicly-owned monuments, as long as they provided two periods of 30-days’ notice and a public hearing. The law also allows the localities to hold optional referenda.
The Nottoway County confederate monument was erected in 1893 by the Ladies Memorial Association of Nottoway. After hearing public comment on September 17, 2020, a week later the Nottoway Board voted unanimously to hold a referendum on relocating the monument. Congress has also required Fort Pickett, in Nottoway to be renamed since it commemorates Confederate Major General George Pickett who fought at Gettysburg, according to The Associated Press.
The Middlesex County confederate monument was erected in 1910 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The county Board of Supervisors voted three-to-two in July to hold the referendum; in a September 7 meeting, multiple members of the public spoke for and against the monument, according to The Southside Sentinel. Some residents advocated for removal, with some noting that it is linked to slavery, while others commented on its ties to local history.
In 2021, two high-profile monuments of Robert Lee were removed from city centers in Charlottesville and Richmond with the approval of the Virginia Supreme Court. According to a September 2021 list from The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), Eastville and Isle of Wight also removed monuments in 2021.
The VPAP list includes over 80 localities where confederate monuments remain. In addition to Mathews, Nottoway, and Middlesex, VPAP reported that officials in King George, Salem, and Tappahanock are also deciding about their monuments.
After the referenda on Tuesday, local officials will have to decide if they will retain or remove their monuments.