Leontine Kelly raised her children a few streets away from Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, once the capital city of the Confederacy. Lining Monument Avenue were enormous memorials to Confederate leaders like Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson.
Kelly had no idea, passing by the statue of Robert E. Lee riding a horse, that someday an image of him would be taken down and replaced with one of her.
All the Monument Avenue confederate monuments were removed over the last two years. The statue of Lee, former commander of the Confederate Army, was the last one standing. It was removed on Sept. 8.
“We voted to remove it, not knowing whom we would put in the window, but we would figure out something to represent,” Duane Anders, senior pastor, told the Idaho Statesman. “… So for a year and a half the windows have been clear. In a sense, we let some light in.”
On Tuesday, that window was finally replaced with a new person: Kelly, the first Black woman — and second woman ever — to be selected as a Methodist bishop. The ceremony in which she was chosen was held in the Cathedral of the Rockies in 1984.
The day Kelly was elected in Boise was a historic one. Current Felder flew down at the last minute for the ceremony. She recalls the Cathedral of the Rockies “filled to the brim” and “buzzing with excitement.” Current Felder wore a lei of orchids and a purple Nigerian dress meant to be “symbolic of the presence of the ancestors.” She later included this moment in her book about her mother “Breaking Barriers: An African-American Family and the Methodist Story.”
“Some people were saying it can’t happen, it’s not going to happen,” Current Felder recalled. “So the fact that it happened, for those of us who recognize and believe in the Holy Spirit, it was divinely guided.”