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Dem Congressman Targets Historic Robert E. Lee Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery

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A northern Virginia congressman is pursuing legislation to remove Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s name from the official designation at the historic mansion where he lived before the Civil War.

The home, overlooking the nation’s capital and surrounded by Arlington National Cemetery, is a National Park Service site officially known as “Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial.”

Congress renamed the site in 1972 to designate it as a memorial to Lee.

But Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, whose district is home to Arlington House, said it’s time for Lee’s name to be stripped.

“Part of the reckoning with the history of racism and slavery in America and in our own community has been a reexamination of public symbols,” Beyer said in a statement to The Associated Press.

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Beyer’s plans for legislation comes as descendants of a family enslaved at Arlington House have been lobbying for a name change.

David Rubenstein, who donated $12 million to support restoration efforts there, said in June that he believes Lee’s name should be removed.

The site itself has been closed for renovations and is expected to reopen later this year.

Beyer, in his statement, cited the mansion’s history, noting that “[t]he choice of Lee’s home for the site of a national military cemetery was intended to be a punitive measure against Lee, who himself said after the Civil War that he opposed erecting Confederate monuments.”

Do you think the name of this historic mansion should be changed?

The mansion sits atop a bluff overlooking the Potomac River with an unparalleled view of Washington. Surrounding the mansion is Arlington National Cemetery, which draws nearly 4 million visitors a year.

It was built by George Washington’s adoptive grandson, George Washington Parke Custis.

Custis’ daughter later married Robert E. Lee; they were wed at the home, and Lee managed the property for a number of years before the Civil War.

When the war began, Lee’s family fled the home and Union commanders seized the property. They soon chose to use the land as a burial site for Union soldiers, planting the seeds for Arlington National Cemetery.

The debate over Lee’s name at Arlington House comes as Confederate monuments and markers are being removed across the South.

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In neighboring Fairfax County, the school board recently voted to rename Robert E. Lee High School.

In Richmond, the state is battling in court for authority to remove a century-old statue of Lee that has long anchored the city’s famed Monument Avenue.

And in Congress, Beyer and others are seeking to remove statues of Lee and other Confederate figures from the U.S. Capitol.


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