Governor Glenn Youngkin announced his first two appointments to the Board of Historic Resources (BHR), including Richmond-area art historian Dr. Ann McLean, who has appeared both on Richmond’s Morning News with John Reid and Bacon’s Rebellion critical of efforts to rename the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library and destroy monuments. The other appointee is Hon. Aimee Jorjani, nominated by Trump to be the first full-time chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The BHR is a seven-member group of governor-appointed Virginia citizens responsible for approving nominations to the Virginia Landmarks Register, to create new or revised state historic markers, and to hold historic preservation easements, according to its website.
“I think we should try to preserve the wonderful heritage that we have in Virginia and that our heritage has come under a vicious attack,” McLean told The Virginia Star.
She said she would pay close attention to the wording on the historic markers.
“I’m willing and excited to go in and see what’s been going on with historic markers. I do feel there is a great deal of effort to revise, and so what I think is very important, is being sensitive, again, to the full truth of what happened, and that needs to be documented,” McLean said.
McLean founded the Hunter Classical Christian School on the outskirts of Richmond, although she said she’s not involved with the school now.
“The American experiment depends upon an educated populace founded on Christian values,” she told Bacon’s Rebellion in 2012.
She’s also on the board of The Jefferson Council (TJC), a nonprofit focused on “Preserving Thomas Jefferson’s legacy at the University of Virginia.”
Bacon’s Rebellion founder James Bacon, also the publisher of TJC, told The Star, “I think her appointment to the board is an excellent choice. Ann is a passionate defender of Virginia’s heritage, especially of the founding fathers, and she will not back down in the face of those who want to ‘reinterpret’ Virginia’s history from the perspective of the 1619 Project. Too many Virginians are afraid to court controversy with the ‘social justice’ crowd. They’re terrified of the Twitter Outrage Mob. Ann is fearless.”
Modern historians commonly describe the proliferation of Confederate monuments in the early 1900s as part of a broader effort to retell the history of the Confederacy in a more positive light focused on states’ rights, not slavery. McLean has pushed back on that depiction of the purpose of the monuments, including after Department of Historic Resources conservators opened the Richmond Lee Monument time capsule.
“I think that the Southerners knew that their story of why they fought the Civil War was not being told correctly. Fake news, or false narratives, are not new, and this whole tragedy is that these statues were built to tell the true story of the American South to people 500 years from now,” McLean told John Reid on December 23, 2021. “But we have forces right here 150 years later that want to destroy the evidence of that story, and you know, the fight for sovereignty of each state.”
The Star asked McLean if her role in the BHR would allow her to have a say in the ongoing controversies surrounding Confederate monuments in Virginia. She just received her orientation on Tuesday, and said she is still in learning mode.
“In my role at DHR, I don’t know how that’s going to play out,” she said.
“But I am not into destroying people’s fine art. I think there’s something cosmically wrong with doing that under any circumstances. As an artist myself, it takes a lot of soul to create a piece of artwork. And to me, I don’t care what culture you’re taking about. It’s wrong to come in and destroy someone’s objects, especially funerary objects, and a lot of these monuments were there to commemorate the death of a father, or nephew, or son, or brother,” McLean said.
According to her bio at the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Jorjani has experience working as an aide to former Representative Paul Ryan and working in the Department of the Interior. During her time at the ACHP, the council tried to work with the Federal Communications Commission to address allowing upgrades on “Twilight Towers” – older telecommunications towers that hadn’t undergone required historic preservation reviews, but Jorjani led a 2020 letter asking the FCC for more time. Inside Sources criticized that request, saying that Jorjani was “stopping progress on America’s efforts to compete with China in the vital arena of 5G technology?”
After President Joe Biden took office, he asked Jorjani to resign from the ACHP. The resignation announcement highlighted her achievements including oversight of the transition to telework during COVID-19, developing a plan for the future of the ACHP that “reflects the full American story,” and establishment of a preservation trades training task force.
“I’m excited and honored to be appointed to serve on my Commonwealth’s Board of Historic Resources and to work with the good folks in the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (State Historic Preservation Office),” Jorjani posted Tuesday.
Youngkin on Virginia’s Historic Resources
Much of the controversy and major action surrounding Confederate monuments in Virginia happened before Youngkin ran for governor, and he’s remained relatively quiet on the subject, although The Washington Post reported in September 2021 that Youngkin agreed with the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision to remove the Lee Monument. When Governor Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the Lee Monument pedestal in December, Youngkin’s team pointed to a statement he made in September.
“The Supreme Court in fact has ruled on this and the statue is going to come down and I hope they move it to a battlefield or a museum so we don’t lose the fact that we have a history and we all need to know it,” he said.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Glenn Youngkin” by Glenn Youngkin. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Doug Kerr. CC BY-SA 2.0.