WASHINGTON (AP) — A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that represented Virginia in the U.S. Capitol has been removed.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement that workers removed the statue from the National Statuary Hall Collection early 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,” said Northam.
Each state is entitled to display two statues in the collection. Lee’s statue had stood with George Washington’s statue since 1909 as Virginia’s representatives in the Capitol.
The Lee statue had been one among 13 located in the Crypt of the Capitol, representing the 13 original colonies.
Northam had requested its removal and a state commission has recommended replacing Lee’s statue with a likeness of Barbara Johns.
Johns was an American civil rights leader who protested poor conditions at her all-Black high school in the town of Farmville in 1951. Her court case became part of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down racial segregation in public schools.
Virginia’s General Assembly must approve the replacement before a sculptor can be commissioned for the new statue. If approved, Johns would stand alongside Washington, and would be the only teenager represented in the collection.
“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,” said the governor.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia tweeted out a video of the Lee statue being taken down.
4:02 am. 12/21/20. Crypt of the US Capitol. pic.twitter.com/2ttGecsj5B
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) December 21, 2020