Richmond Robert E. Lee Monument Torn Down


Raidon Bingham, Reporter

On September 8th, the state of Virginia and the office of Governor Northam removed a 130-year-old monument that was originally dedicated to the former Confederate General Robert E. Lee. This was part of a campaign to remove statues viewed as remnants of racial injustice. The decision, approved unanimously in the Virginian Supreme Court, comes two months after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ordered the removal, citing the racist undertones and impressions associated with the monument as a whole. 

The plan for a monument in the state capitol was drafted after the death of Robert E. Lee in 1870, and in 1890 sculptor Antonin Mercié had a completed recreation of the General – mounted on horseback – shipped to the United States. He himself was unable to attend its grand reveal. In the years since, the Robert E. Lee monument has been a rallying cry for various right-wing groups against the renewed wave of anti-Confederatism in America. 

With the statue gone, questions have risen about the replacement that would sit atop the pedestal. (Support for the pedestal itself has kept it from being torn down) The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has stepped up to the call, installing a time capsule into the pedestal with support from Governor Northam’s relocation fund. The capsule includes various references to the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as the racial justice movement in Virginia and America as a whole.

Northam’s move forward has been hailed by various democratic legislators and groups as a step toward a Virginia that distances itself with its Confederate history. “That is a symbol for so many people, black and otherwise, of a time gone by of hate and oppression and being made to feel less than,” said Norfolk legislator Del. Jay Jones after the initial announcement was made. 

The toppling of statues throughout Virginia has been a controversial issue for many, with arguments ranging from military history to racial prejudice, but one thing remains clear: Virginia has taken a step toward a new future unmarred by any dark history behind its footsteps.

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