Work to remove two statues erected in honor of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Charlottesville, VA began Saturday morning.
According to WSLS News, the removal of the statues comes years after a movement to get the statue of Lee taken down originally began in 2016. Things came to a head in 2017, when the statues were used as a rallying point for white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Klan members during the Unite the Right Rally.
That rally infamously turned into a violent affair after a man drove into a crowd of counter protestors and killed Heather Heyer, while injuring several others.
Because of litigation and changes to a state law dealing with war memorials, the city had been unable to act until now.
A coalition of racial justice activists who have long been fighting for the removal of the statues issued a statement Friday celebrating the news.
“As long as they remain standing in our downtown public spaces, they signal that our community tolerated white supremacy and the Lost Cause these generals fought for,” the coalition, Take ‘Em Down Cville, said in its statement.
The city of Charlottesville issued a news release explaining that only the bronze statues themselves were removed Saturday, while the stone bases will temporarily remain in their respective places. The statues are being put in storage until a permanent decision is made on what to do with them.
As of now, it looks like the city may take the Indiana Jones route and have the statues put in a museum.
From the city’s news release:
During the past month, the City has solicited for expressions of interest from any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield interested in acquiring the statues, or either of them, for relocation and placement. The Charlottesville City Manager has received ten responses thus far – six out of state and four in-state – that are all under review. The City remains open to additional expressions of interest.
Wanting to preserve items of historical significance is one thing, but it seems counterproductive for a state that says it is dedicated to rectifying its past sins to simply move statues that were literal monuments to racism somewhere else.
Here’s this from an NPR report on the history of the two statues:
Charlottesville’s statues of Lee and Jackson were erected in the early 1920s with large ceremonies that included Confederate veteran reunions, parades and balls. At one event during the 1921 unveiling of the Jackson statue, children formed a living Confederate flag on the lawn of a school down the road from Vinegar Hill, a prominent Black neighborhood. The Jackson statue was placed on land that had once been another prosperous Black neighborhood.
Their erection coincided with a push across the South to valorize the Confederacy and suppress Black communities, according to Sterling Howell, programs coordinator with the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.
“This was at the height of Jim Crow segregation, at the height of lynchings in American history,” he said. “There was a clear statement that they weren’t welcome.”
So, yeah. I’d be fine if these statues–along with any and every other one just like them–were dumped into the ocean, buried in the desert or melted and turned into something that actually serves a purpose. But hey, that’s just me.