Black-owned business faces threats for removing dozens of Confederate monuments

Devon Henry says he sometimes wears a bullet proof vest because of the threats.

Devon Henry, a Black businessman, has discovered the perils of doing a job that nobody else wants to do — continuous threats. 

Team Henry Enterprises, Henry’s company, has removed more than three dozen Confederate monuments in Virginia and other Southeastern states.

Sep 8, 2021; Richmond, VA, USA; The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Va., will be taken down on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, more than 130 years after it was erected. It is the largest Confederate statue remaining in the United States. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

Henry says that because of the threats he has faced, he obtained his conceal-carry license and now carries a gun. He has tightened security around his home and business, and according to the New York Times, he sometimes wears a bullet-proof vest.

Henry told the Times that he and his crew have had roughly six dozen racial slurs hurled at them.

“You start thinking, damn, was it worth it?” Henry told the Times. “But then there are moments; my daughter, in her interview for college, said I was her hero.”

In June 2020, then Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered that the 60-foot statue of Robert E. Lee be removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond. His decision came in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the demonstrations that followed.

The protestors directed their anger at Confederate symbols as vestiges of racism and hate. But the state found it had an issue after ordering the statue’s removal.

“Nobody would take this job,” Clark Mercer, Northam’s former chief of staff, told the New York Times. “Some of the folks who were asked to take it down were pretty overtly racist with their comments.”

Enter Henry.

“It was actually from the governor’s side,” Henry told NBC12 in an interview. “They said, ‘We want to take down Lee, but we can’t find anyone to do it. Can you do it?’”

He agreed.

There were times when Henry wondered whether he was doing the right thing.

“First and foremost, it was the safety component. Not just for me, but my team. They have a family, as well as my family. You think about New Orleans, where the contractor had his car blown up. You think about what happened in Charlottesville. There’s a lot of emotion around these statues on both sides,” Henry said in the NBC12 interview.

But he has persevered.

In 1890 John Mitchell Jr., the civil rights campaigner and editor of the Richmond Planet, fought against the Lee monument saying these words of Black men: “He put up the Lee Monument, and should the time come, he’ll be there to take it down,” according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch.

He was right.

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