The fates of two hotly-contested Confederate monuments in Virginia have been decided.
The small circle of land that once held a state-owned sculpture of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will be handed over to the City of Richmond, and will no longer be under state control.
During the police brutality protests of 2020, the space that held the statue on Monument Avenue was unofficially renamed Marcus-David Peters Circle by activists, becoming a center for community protests and gatherings. The statue depicting Lee was removed in September, leaving the pedestal behind.
On Dec. 5, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the pedestal’s removal process would begin immediately, lasting until Dec. 31, and that the small circle of state-owned land would become the property of the City of Richmond.
In a press release, Northam said, “This land is in the middle of Richmond, and Richmonders will determine the future of this space. The Commonwealth will remove the pedestal and we anticipate a safe removal and a successful conclusion to this project.”
It is unclear what will happen next to the pedestal that remains once it has been removed. Workers will safely disassemble the large pedestal that once held the bronze sculpture, and the Commonwealth will store it until its future has been decided.
It was important to the Northam Administration to remove the statue and its pedestal while he was still in office, ahead of Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s inauguration next month.
Swords Into Plowshares
The fate of another Confederate statue was decided early Tuesday morning, as Charlottesville’s City Councilors unanimously voted to donate one of the statues — also of Robert E. Lee — to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (JSAAHC). With the help of the Charlottesville community via a six-month community engagement process, the JSAAHC plans to melt down the statue and recontextualize it into a new piece of public art that reflects racial justice and inclusion.
There are plans to gift the former symbol of white supremacy to the City of Charlottesville, to be displayed and installed on public land.
The proposal was highly lauded and supported by various community organizations and individuals. It was also the only local proposal that officials received to consider the fate of the Lee statue.
Charlottesville’s Confederate monuments became the center of attention ahead of the deadly Aug. 12, 2017 Unite the Right Rally. The fate of the city’s other monument, depicting Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, has not yet been decided.
Over the summer, city officials removed the two Confederate statues after voting on June 7 to permanently remove them, thanks to a decision by the Virginia Supreme Court, as well as a change in Virginia’s laws ahead of their vote. A third statue, depicting Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their interpreter, Sacagawea, was also removed, because her living descendants thought it was an offensive depiction.