A quartet of statues honoring Confederate figures were quietly removed at the University of Texas at Austin overnight, part of a nationwide effort to denounce white supremacy.
The university removed statues of Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg from its Main Mall and plans to relocate them elsewhere on campus.
University President Gregory Fenves said the removal of the statues was spurred by the “horrific displays of hatred at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville” on August 12.
“These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism,” Fenves said.
The Lee, Johnston and Reagan statues will be added to the collection of the Briscoe Center for scholarly study on campus where they can be displayed in historical context, Fenves said. The statue of Hogg, who was governor of Texas from 1891-1895, “will be considered for re-installation at another campus site.”
The school’s move is part of a growing trend to remove Confederate monuments across the country. Some say such landmarks are painful reminders of slavery, while others complain that removing statues and monuments airbrushes key chapters of US history.
The removals at UT Austin follow another recent trend — taking down Confederate monuments abruptly in the middle of the night to avoid potentially violent protests like the ones that rocked Charlottesville.
Last week, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said it was best to remove four statues there “quickly and quietly” overnight.
Fenves said he understands the importance of history at a major university. But he said the “historical and cultural significance of the Confederate statues on our campus — and the connections that individuals have with them — are severely compromised by what they symbolize.”
“Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry.”
In 2015, UT Austin moved statues of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson from its Main Mall following the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. That attack, by a white supremacist at a black church, galvanized the debate over Confederate symbols across the country.
The removal of the statues early Monday morning came days before tens of thousands of UT students arrive for fall classes.
” As UT students return in the coming week, I look forward to welcoming them here for a new academic year with a recommitment to an open, positive and inclusive learning environment for all,” Fenves said.
“We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus.”