Now that Charlottesville’s infamous statue of Robert E. Lee has been removed from its pedestal and out of the public eye, the question of what to do with it still remains. If a proposal by a local Black history and culture museum is approved by city officials, it may be melted down and turned into new art.
The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center’s proposal, titled “Swords into Plowshares,” calls for commissioning an artist-in-residence to create the new artworks, which would be gifted to the city of Charlottesville upon completion.
“Our outcomes will not be determined by a single philanthropic voice as was the case when Paul Goodloe McIntire gifted representations of white supremacy to Charlottesville, but rather will represent the desires of the entire community for values-driven, socially just objects in our public spaces,” the center’s director, Andrea Douglas, said in a statement.
The bronze statue of Lee, one of many Confederate monuments throughout the country that have been removed in recent years, was at the center of 2017's gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis that culminated in the murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer–who a man intentionally struck with his car.
Officials had been trying for years to have the statue (a useless and ugly symbol of racism within the United States) removed, but the process was repeatedly hampered by legal battles. Ultimately, the statue of Lee was dismantled in July and put in storage, along with one of Stonewall Jackson that stood nearby.
The museum told NPR that its proposal had received support from various arts and advocacy groups, and also received $500,000 in funding commitments.
The Washington Post reports that other potential buyers for the statues include other arts groups and historical societies.
The Jefferson School, however, is only interested in acquiring the Lee statue.
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Gregory Downs, a historian at the University of California at Davis, praised the Jefferson School’s proposal as a creative way to “confront the past and help people better understand the past.”