The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that formerly stood in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, will be donated to an African American heritage organization, where it will be melted down and turned into another public art piece.
The City Council of Charlottesville voted unanimously, 4-0, to donate the bronze equestrian statue of Lee, which was removed by the city in July, to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, whose initiative, “Swords Into Plowshares,” received the support of people and organizations including the Descendants of Enslaved Communities at the University of Virginia, as well as descendants of slaves who worked at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, Fox News reported. The organization will also inform the public of the project’s development via a “community engagement process.” The organization raised some $590,000 to finance the project.
“Our hope with ‘Swords into Plowshares’ is to create something that transforms what was once toxic in our public space into something beautiful that can be more reflective of our entire community’s social values,” Jefferson School’s executive director Andrea Douglas said. “We’re giving people opportunities to engage with our own narratives and our own histories. This project offers a road map for other communities to do the same.”
CNN reported that the statue will be taken to a foundry to be melted down some time early next year. It will be turned into bronze ingots that will be used to create the new statue. “We’ll do that immediately. It’s the first thing we’re going to do,” Douglas said.
Douglas added that she hopes to have the project completed by 2024, the 100th anniversary of the unveiling of the Lee statue.
“I think the goal for us when we started this process was to take something that has been traumatic in our community, a symbol of racism, and turn it into something that can cause our community to heal,” Douglas told CNN.
“We are hoping that this process will be the complete antithesis to the process that put the [Lee] statue in our community to [begin] with,” she said.
The statue was at the center of the “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in 2017. The Charlottesville City Council voted in June, also unanimously, to remove the statue of Lee, as well as another statue of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The statues were taken down in July. The Daily Wire reported at the time:
A crane hoisted a Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue off its pedestal in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday morning nearly four years after its planned removal sparked the “Unite The Right” rally that erupted into violence and left one woman dead. …
Shortly afterward, crews removed a statue of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson nearby. …
City officials indicated they have reached out to museums, historical societies, and representatives from government and military battlefields that might be interested in acquiring the statues and have received 10 responses so far.
The removals come more than five years after Zyahna Bryant, then a freshman at Charlottesville High School, started a petition to rename Lee Park and remove the monument paying tribute to the general. In February 2017, the city council voted to take down the Lee statue.
Elsewhere in Virginia, the statue of Robert E. Lee in the capital city of Richmond was taken down in September. Outgoing Democratic Governor Ralph Northam ordered the pedestal on which the statue stood to be removed on Sunday. The land on which the statue stood was also given to the city of Richmond.