A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed overnight from its perch in the US Capitol where it has stood next to George Washington for 111 years and will be replaced by one honoring a civil rights icon from Virginia.
The Lee statue has been a part of the National Statuary Hall representing the state of Virginia since 1909.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said it will be replaced with a new statue of Barbara Johns, who at 16 years old led a 1951 walkout at an all-black school for equal education that went on to become part of the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.
“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Northam said in a statement released Monday. “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.”
A state commission voted on Dec. 16 to remove the Lee statue and replace it with one of Johns.
“As of this morning, Virginia will no longer honor the Confederacy in the halls of the United States Capitol,” said Delegate Jeion Ward, who sponsored legislation creating the commission. “When I think of Barbara Johns, I am reminded of how brave she was at such a young age. It’s time for us to start singing the songs of some of the Virginians who have done great things that have gone unnoticed. This is a proud moment for our Commonwealth, and I am humbled to have been a part of it.”
The statue of Lee will be put on display at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond.
Calls to remove statues or monuments to Confederate leaders picked up steam this year following the death of George Floyd in May at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, and a renewed discussion of race issues in America that followed.
A provision in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress earlier this month, would remove the names of Confederate military leaders from 10 Army bases.
President Trump has threatened to veto the spending bill because of it.
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