When students at the University of Texas at Austin return to classes Aug. 30, they may notice that the air on campus is cleaner, and the view clearer and brighter, since the university took action to remove four second-place trophies (aka Confederate statues) from campus.
University President Greg Fenves announced the removal of the statues of Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg from the university’s Main Mall, citing last week’s horrific violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Lee and Johnston were both Confederate generals, while Reagan was the postmaster general of the Confederacy. Hogg served as governor of Texas from 1891 to 1895 and was the son of a Confederate general.
Fenves wrote in his statement regarding the statues’ removal:
The University of Texas at Austin is a public educational and research institution, first and foremost. The historical and cultural significance of the Confederate statues on our campus—and the connections that individuals have with them—are severely compromised by what they symbolize. Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry.
Fenves noted that the statues of Lee, Johnston and Reagan will be added to the collection of the school’s Briscoe Center for scholarly study, while the statue of Hogg will be considered for reinstallation at another campus site.
“The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history. But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university’s core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres,” he added in the statement.
Removal of the statues started at around 11 p.m. Sunday, with no notice given for public safety reasons, university spokesperson Gary Susswein told the Dallas Morning News. The removal is expected to be completed sometime Monday.
As the Morning News notes, the university had previously removed statues of Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States, and that of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in 2015, following the creation of a task force in response to the June 2015 fatal shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., that left nine dead.
The Davis statue was restored and moved to the Briscoe Center, while the Wilson statue remains in storage, the news site notes.
“We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus,” Fenves said. “As UT students return in the coming week, I look forward to welcoming them here for a new academic year with a recommitment to an open, positive and inclusive learning environment for all.”
Read more at the Dallas Morning News.