Robert E. Lee has made his last stand in Charlottesville.
A statue of the Confederate general that inspired a violent 2017 white supremacist march will be melted down by a local African-American history museum, it’s molten remnants refashioned by Black creatives into something more worthwhile than a memorial to a failed insurrection.
Charlottesville City Council decided the statue’s fate Tuesday after reviewing several proposals, according to the Washington Post. Now it’s up to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center to carry out the statue’s final demise.
From the Washington Post
Called “Swords Into Plowshares,” the project “will allow Charlottesville to contend with its racist past,” Andrea Douglas, the museum’s executive director, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “It really is about taking something that had been harmful and transforming it into something that is representative of the city’s values today.”
The museum will consult Charlottesville residents in the coming months, including in open forums early next year, to determine guidelines for the art piece, and then convene a jury to select one idea, Douglas said. The end result will be gifted back to the city to display on public land by 2024.
Ironically, the riot that led to the statue’s end was sparked by efforts to have it removed. A then high-school student, Zyahna Bryant, circulated a 2015 petition to eliminate it from an eponymous park in Charlottesville’s small downtown, the Post reports. City officials voted to dismantle it in 2017 and in response, a mob of white nationalists, uniformed in khakis and tiki torches descended on the city that August. It descended into brawls between the racists and counter-protestors and ended with a woman, Heather Heyer, killed when one of the white nationalists plowed his car into a crowd.
Since then, Charlottesville has gone from a quiet Appalachian college town to being known for two things: the University of Virginia and the backdrop for the worst racial violence of the Trump era.
The Lee statue was finally removed from the park in July.