Richmond demolishes Robert E. Lee statue

1900
Crews work to remove one of the country’s largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, Sept. 8, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, Pool)

By J.K. Schmid
Special to the AFRO

A Richmond memorial to Robert E. Lee is in the midst of demolition.

A 21-foot tall statue of the slaver and General in Chief of the Armies of the Confederate States was removed Sept. 8. Deconstruction necessitated cutting the statue in two, at Lee’s waist to allow it to move freely under Virginia overpasses. The plinth, covered in graffiti, including scornful remarks such as “do better” and “runner up,” remains in place.

A crowd of hundreds gathered in the former capital of the Confederacy to watch the statue come down, the event was cheered on.

Until it’s demolition, the Lee statue was one of the largest and most famous landmarks of the Lost Cause movement.

The statue, erected in 1890, comes down after a years-long campaign: one that started with a White nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. City-owned statues on Monument Avenue have already come down, Lee’s statue was the last due to wranglings between the City of Richmond, the courts and the Commonwealth’s legislature. The Lee statue was state-owned.

Five statues in total have come down in the wake of agitations from Black Lives Matter, protests of the murder of George Floyd, and the local leadership of Virginia Defenders for Freedom Justice & Equality.

Construction crews have not been able to locate the time capsule reportedly buried in the monument’s foundation, at the time of this writing.

While city officials and the community deliberate about the future of the plinth, it now supports a time capsule of current Richmond history. Items include a photo of a young Black girl, fist raised in protest of the statue, an expired vial of Pfizer COVD-19 vaccine, and a sticker reading “Black Lives Matter.”

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