The only thing weirder than the fact that a monument of a dude who straight up betrayed the United States exists in the nation’s Capitol, representing the state of Virginia, is the fact it’s been there for over 100 years. Well, at least it was, as Virginia has finally taken the step of removing the statue.
ABC News reports that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) revealed in a statement that workers removed the monument from the National Statuary Hall Collection on Monday morning. “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,” Northam wrote in his statement.
Every state is allowed two statues in the National Statuary Hall. Lee’s monument was erected in 1909 along with a monument of George Washington as Virginia’s two picks. That is a very interesting combo, to say the least. Also, as Northam’s statement notes, this was only 44 years after the Confederacy launched its violent, failed bid to keep Black folks enslaved.
This is essentially like if The Force Awakens opened with the New Republic erecting a statue to Anakin Skywalker. Yeah, he might have been a hero at one point, but he also killed the fuck out of those kids.
I may have spent my entire Sunday watching The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars, but it’s still a valid comparison, dammit.
The absurdity of the U.S. Capitol having monuments to a group of people who committed treason in the name of subjugation hasn’t been lost on Black lawmakers. Former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) would give tours of the hall where he pointed out all the monuments to Confederate figures.
Despite there being a history of Black politicians going “Yo, this is fucked up,” it’s ultimately up to the states to decide whether or not to replace the monuments. Given that white people seem to have only realized racism was a thing after George Floyd died, it sadly makes sense why these monuments have stood for so long.
The state commission that voted to remove the statue has suggested it be replaced with a monument to Barbara Johns. After Johns led a student walkout to protest the inferior conditions of her all-Black school compared to a nearby all-white school, her case was taken up by two lawyers from the NAACP. Her case was one of several reviewed by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, with it being seen as one of the pivotal steps towards desegregation.
Should the statue of Johns be approved, she would be the only teenager in the Hall’s collection. For his part, Gov. Northam seems to be behind the selection of Johns.
“I look forward to seeing a trailblazing young woman of color represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol,” Northam wrote in his statement. “Visitors will learn about Barbara Johns’ contributions to America and be empowered to create positive change in their communities just like she did.”