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Wexton, McEachin call for replacement of Lee statue

Photo Credit: W. Scott McGill/Adobe Stock

Jennifer Wexton and Donald McEachin have written to Gov. Ralph Northam to call for the replacement of Virginia’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, housed in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol Building.

The National Statuary Hall Collection consists of two statues donated by each state, with 100 statues total in the collection, that honor notable persons in a state’s history. Currently, Virginia’s two statues in the collection depict George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

Virginia’s statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection is placed in the U.S. Capitol Crypt, a prominent location that is displayed to almost every tour group that visits the U.S. Capitol.

Virginia’s decision to donate the statue of Lee was a part of a national effort to rewrite the history of the South’s secession and rehabilitate the image of Confederate leaders.

In their letter to Northam, the representatives outline Virginia’s long history of racial injustice, dating from the arrival of the first enslaved Africans, to the era of Jim Crow and racial terror, to current inequities that still exist.

“As Virginians, we have a responsibility to not only learn from but also confront our history,” Wexton and McEachin wrote in their letter to Northam. “As part of this responsibility, we must strive for a more complete telling of history by raising up the voices, stories, and memories of minorities and people of color. In doing so, we should consider what monuments we can add to acknowledge the horrors of slavery, expose the injustices of institutional racism, and honor those who dedicated their lives to fighting for equality.”

Wexton and McEachin go on to list some of the numerous historical figures who would better represent Virginia in the National Statuary Hall Collection, listing Virginians such as civil rights leader, Oliver Hill, and renowned 19th century thinker, Booker T. Washington.

In the letter, the representatives call on Northam to include the replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue in the U.S. Capitol as part of his agenda for the 2020 legislative session. In order for the statue of Lee to be replaced, authorizing legislation must be passed through the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor. The request must then be communicated to the Architect of the Capitol.

Florida recently replaced its statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with that of civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune. Similarly, in 2019, Arkansas replaced its two statues of Civil War and Reconstruction figures with those of civil rights leader, Daisy Bates, and cultural icon, Johnny Cash.

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