Statue of Robert E. Lee Removed from US Capitol Overnight


A historic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was quietly removed from inside the U.S. Capitol early Monday morning.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported the statue of Lee had stood in its spot for 111 years.

Lee’s likeness was placed at the Capitol as one of the state’s two figures inside Statuary Hall. Each state gets two such spots in the hall.

The newspaper reported that the Virginia General Assembly last week recommended the statue of Lee be taken down and replaced with one of former teen civil rights activist Barbara Johns.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced his state had done just that on Monday.

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“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Northam said. “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,” said the governor, who was criticized last year over a yearbook photo featuring “blackface” and a Ku Klux Klan hood.

Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, was present when the statue was removed, The Hill reported. Kaine was joined by a representative for Northam and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia.

Kaine posted a video on Twitter of the state being taken down.

In a year that has seen state budgets strained and the country’s historical figures challenged by activists, the Lee statue’s removal and replacement are expected to cost Virginia taxpayers $500,000, The Hill reported.

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Despite the expected cost, Northam was joined by other Democrats in celebrating the removal of the statue.

“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday on Twitter. “There is no room for celebrating the bigotry of the Confederacy in the Capitol or any other place of honor in our country.”

Democratic Virginia state Sen. Louise Lucas praised Northam and a state commission that had recommended the removal of the statue of Lee.

“Confederate images do not represent who we are in Virginia, that’s why we voted unanimously to remove this statue,” Lucas said, according to The Hill. “I am thrilled that this day has finally arrived, and I thank Governor Northam and the Commission for their transformative work.”

The state has not yet announced when the statue of Johns will be erected. Johns’ name has become synonymous with the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, in which the court unanimously decided that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional.

“Barbara Johns, a 16 year-old high school girl in Prince Edward County, Virginia, led her classmates in a strike to protest the substandard conditions at Robert Russa Moton High School,” the Moton Museum biography of Johns says.

“Her idealism, planning, and persistence ultimately garnered the support of NAACP lawyers Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill to take up her cause and the cause of more equitable conditions for Moton High School. After meeting with the students and the community, lawyers Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill filed suit at the federal courthouse in Richmond, Virginia. The case was called Davis v. Prince Edward.

“In 1954, the Farmville case became one of five cases that the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka when it declared segregation unconstitutional.”

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.