In the early hours on Monday, Virginia’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from the U.S. Capitol building, announced Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. A representative from Northam’s office was present at the removal, as was United States Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Virginia).
The statue of Gen. Lee stood in the nation’s capitol for 111 years alongside America’s first President George Washington as Virginia’s contributions to the National Statuary Hall Collection. Each state is entitled to display two statues. Lee’s statue will be replaced with one of the late Barbara Rose Johns, an African American woman who played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had called for the removal of the statues earlier this year, and it will now be moved to the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond, Virginia.
Rep. Wexton (@RepWexton) praised the actions on Twitter on Monday, “Early this morning, I witnessed the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from the U.S. Capitol. It was a historic & overdue moment. I’m proud the work
@RepMcEachin & I started a year ago led to this. We deserve to be represented by a figure who truly embodies Virginia’s values.”
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Sen. Kaine shared a video of the statue’s removal.
Many on social media praised the decision to remove the statue. @vanbadham, offered the thought, “Can someone please explain to me why there was ever a statue of a traitor in the Capitol in the first place? He literally led a violent, seditious uprising that resulted in the mass death of patriots. What am I not getting?”
Physillis Randall (@PRandallcares), who is the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, added, “All over America, people are waking up to one simple fact. All history should be taught, learned, understood & appreciated; however, not all history should be celebrated. A statue is a celebration. Take down the celebration of Confederates and Segregationists. Take them down.”
Of course – and as expected – there were those who suggested that the removal of the statue was akin to destroying history.
Writer/educator Courtney Huntington (@cahuntington), was among those who suggested, “Robert E. Lee was an American hero.”
Such strong sentiments then set off a firestorm of response with many labeling Gen. Lee a traitor for standing by the Confederate cause.
At least one user on Twitter, @Kaziah60281583, took to discussing the concept of history vs. statue, writing, “Stop losing your minds about everything. It’s a statue. It isn’t erasing history. There are plenty of people in history books that didn’t get a statue. Your life will be exactly the same tomorrow. To other people, removing this means more than your right to throw tantrums.”
User Max Bauer (@maximusbauer) also shared a level minded thought on the removal of the statue, “Long overdue. That statue belongs in a museum, not the US Capitol. Robert E Lee was an American Hero, and then he betrayed his country and president when asked to fight for the Union. Not erasing history, just not glorifying it”
Leadership Professor Ron Dufresne (RonDufresne) also noted, “I was told that removing honors to Confederate leaders would be ‘erasing history.’ But here we are, 6.5 hours after R.E. Lee’s statue has been removed, and the Library of Congress still has 360,921 resources on Lee.”
While it is easy to argue that removing a statue is akin to destroying the history, these reactions and opinions that history lives on in books and other research is notable. In a time when the nation is so divided and the removal of such objects usually results in such venom from both sides, it is good to see that understand history state that it lives on regardless of whether the symbol is there or not.
In this case, the mob didn’t tear down the statue and it will go a place where its significance can be shared in the proper context.