Jeremy Lazarus / by Michael Falco

Who is Jeremy Lazarus?

Jeremy Lazarus was born in Portland, Maine, but soon after moved with his family to Akron, Ohio, where he grew up. He was raised in a Jewish household with his two brothers. He attended the college of William and Mary and has been a reporter since 1971. After losing a job, he moved to Florida for part of the 1980s, a formative time for his outlook on race in the US. He lived in Washington D.C. for a period as well. Upon moving back to Richmond, he began working at a black-owned newspaper, the Richmond Free Press, an experience that continues to reshape his worldview. He is married to an African-American woman.

Excerpt from interview with Jeremy Lazarus by Whitney Dow, 2018

Most people think about those statues, though, as, in some ways, their version of how Richmond will continue as it has. The major politicians of this town have contributed to that. Initially, when you look at Maggie Walker and where she is placed, that tells you a great deal about this city, its image, and what it likes. Now, if you wish to have a new image of the town, you would place her at the main intersection, Belvedere and Broad, because that’s where the most cars come through, and you would have her as a centerpiece, as big as—at least on a pedestal as big as Robert E. Lee so she would stand out. Because what does she stand for? Achievement, striving for all people. The—sure, she was the first black woman to found a bank and start a—but that’s not—if we just look back at that, that’s silly. She is not only female, but she is saying you can achieve, we can do it. If we all work together, it’s—this is where Richmond can be.

Even today, the statute of Robert E. Lee is most photographed and used as a centerpiece for Richmond because it is the largest statue in town. It is easy to photograph. As you’re driving along Monument, boom! There it is, big. Now, it doesn’t mean everybody goes along Monument to see it. Nobody cares, you know? Most people don’t care. But if you’re going to put an icon up of this town, you would put Robert E. Lee up because it’s a big statue and it makes it easy to see, and it seems like it’s a dominant feature of the town. They did not do that for Maggie Walker, and they have not done that for any of the statues about freedom or justice and equality. On the Capitol Square, you have a statue of Barbara Johns and others who were engaged in school integration. Great idea. But then, you realize they have hidden it away. It is behind a fence, away. It is not stuck in the middle of the intersection, right out front, big time, in the front of the place so everybody sees it every day as they pass, that we—this is our new symbol.

That is what Robert E. Lee and the other statues now stand for for people who are opposed to moving them, that they’re still in charge. That the changes, the diversity, the whole bit has not infected this community. 

Interview Transcript