‘Racist’ Statue Handed to Black Museum for Destruction

Museum planning to melt down bronze of Robert E. Lee

Image Credits: RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images.

Charlottesville, Virginia, has decided to turn over the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee to an African American museum that wants to use the bronze for something “more representative” of the city’s new values.

The bronze equestrian statue that previously stood for almost 100 years in Charlottesville’s historic district, was taken off its pedestal in July. On Tuesday, the city council unanimously voted to hand it over to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, which proposed to melt it down and reuse the bronze for another public art project.

The “Swords Into Plowshares” project “will allow Charlottesville to contend with its racist past,” said Andrea Douglas, the museum’s executive director. “It really is about taking something that had been harmful and transforming it into something that is representative of the city’s values today.”

Charlottesville’s monument to Lee, a Virginian who commanded Confederate armies during the 1861-65 American civil war, was commissioned in 1917 and dedicated in 1924. The 2015 petition by a local high school student to take it down led to protests and counter-protests in August 2017. A young woman died when one of the protesters ran over a group of counter-protesters with a car.

While over 30 groups and individuals expressed interest in the Lee statue, and six submitted official proposals – with one even offering $50,000 to buy it – the Democrat-dominated council decided they wanted it destroyed rather than handed over to someone with potential Confederate sympathies.

“That statue is loaded with so many negative meanings, that the only options we should consider are ones that take the opportunity to involve the community in transforming a new narrative,” council member Michael Payne said on Tuesday.

The Jefferson School intends to consult Charlottesville residents about what the new artwork should be, and then select a proposal that would be gifted back to the city by 2024. It has raised about $590,000 of the project’s estimated $1.1 million cost.

Another vote, scheduled for December 20, will decide the fate of the Jackson memorial, as well as the statue to the explorers Lewis & Clark, which has been removed at the request of Native American groups.

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