After more than 100 years, the monument of Confederate general Robert E. Lee has been removed from the U.S. Capitol. The statue stood beside one of George Washington as Virginia’s contribution to the National Statuary Hall Collection.
In a statement made on December 21, Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, announced that the state is planning to have it replaced with a statue of Barbara Johns. “We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Northam said. “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. I look forward to seeing a trailblazing young woman of color represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, where visitors will learn about Barbara Johns’ contributions to America and be empowered to create positive change in their communities just like she did.”
In 2017, the year Northam was elected, a statue of General Lee was removed in Charlottesville, Virginia, which led to the horrifying clash between white supremacists with tiki torches and counter-protesters.
In a conversation with the Associated Press, Governor Northam said he believes Confederate statues should be placed in museums, rather than displayed at places like the Capitol. Senator Tim Kaine and Representative Jennifer Wexton, who represent a large portion of Northern Virginia in Congress, were present at the removal along with a representative from Gov. Northam’s office.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement praising the removal saying, “The Congress will continue our work to rid the Capitol of homages to hate, as we fight to end the scourge of racism in our country,” she said in a statement. “There is no room for celebrating the bigotry of the Confederacy in the Capitol or any other place of honor in our country.”
The removal of the monument comes after years of social activists and progressive politicians calling for the nationwide removal of Confederate statues, as they “glorify racism and intolerance.”