WASHINGTON, D.C. — Virginia’s statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from the United States Capitol overnight.
The statue had been one among 13 located in the Crypt of the Capitol, representing the 13 original colonies.
According to a news release, Governor Northam believes everyone should be proud of this important step forward for the Commonwealth and the country.
“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. 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 Northam.
Northam signed legislation earlier this year, establishing the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol that would study the removal and replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue.
On July 24, 2020, the team voted unanimously to remove the statue. The Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond, Virginia will house the statue.
According to a news release, civil rights icon Barbara Rose Johns could replace the Robert E. Lee statue, at the request of Virginia residents during several virtual public hearings.
Officials said, In 1951, sixteen-year-old Barbara Johns led a student walkout at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, protesting the harsh conditions of the all-Black school compared to a nearby white Farmville High School.
Johns was supported by NAACP lawyers Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill who took up her cause and filed a lawsuit that would later become one of five cases reviewed by the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka when it declared segregation unconstitutional in 1954.
Historians consider Johns’ protest a pivotal moment that launched the desegregation movement in America, according to the release.
Del. Jeion Ward, who sponsored legislation creating the Commission, said that Virginia would no longer honor the Confederacy in the halls of the United States Capitol.
“When I think of Barbara Johns, I am reminded of how brave she was at such a young age. It’s time for us to start singing the songs of some of the Virginians who have done great things that have gone unnoticed.
This is a proud moment for our Commonwealth, and I am humbled to have been a part of it,” said Ward.
The General Assembly must approve the replacement before a sculptor can be commissioned. If approved, Johns would be the only teenager represented in the collection. Gov. Northam has introduced a budget that includes $500,000 to replace the statue.