A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from the crypt of the U.S. Capitol early Monday morning at the request of Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
“Last night, Virginia removed its statue of Robert E. Lee from the U.S. Capitol,” Northam tweeted Monday. “This is an important step forward—it is past time we tell our story with images of perseverance, diversity, and inclusion.”
Last night, Virginia removed its statue of Robert E. Lee from the U.S. Capitol.
This is an important step forward—it is past time we tell our story with images of perseverance, diversity, and inclusion. pic.twitter.com/zyR99ukiIz
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) December 21, 2020
Since 1909, the Lee statue had joined one of former President George Washington as the two statues representing Virginia in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection.
A Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol established by Northam voted unanimously in July to recommend removing Lee’s statue. On Dec. 16, they recommended replacing it with civil rights icon Barbara Johns, which must ultimately be confirmed by the General Assembly.
“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Northam said in a press release. “The Confederacy is a symbol of Virginia’s racist and divisive history, and it is past time we tell our story with images of perseverance, diversity, and inclusion. I look forward to seeing a trailblazing young woman of color represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, where visitors will learn about Barbara Johns’ contributions to America and be empowered to create positive change in their communities just like she did.”
Lee’s likeness will be transported to the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond, the press release further explained.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) lauded the statue’s removal, saying in a statement:
The removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee and its forthcoming replacement by a tribute to Barbara Johns, a civil rights pioneer and pride of Virginia, is welcome news. The halls of Congress are the very heart of our Democracy, and the statues within the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans.
That is why, in my first term as House Speaker, under the leadership of Democrats in Congress, we relocated the Robert E. Lee statue out of a place of honor in National Statuary Hall, where a statue of Rosa Parks now proudly stands. And it is why we have worked to remove other symbols of hate in the Capitol and across our country, including by passing legislation this summer to remove statues of Confederate officials and other representatives of bigotry from the Capitol and by beginning the process of renaming military bases and infrastructure named after Confederate leaders through this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.
The Congress will continue our work to rid the Capitol of homages to hate, as we fight to end the scourge of racism in our country. There is no room for celebrating the bigotry of the Confederacy in the Capitol or any other place of honor in our country.
Earlier this month, a statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was removed from the grounds of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Virginia, where he taught before the Civil War. The statue, which had been donated in 1912 by sculptor Sir Moses Ezekiel, a Civil War veteran as well as VMI’s first Jewish cadet, will be relocated to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park.