Virginia’s statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was removed from the U.S. Capitol early Monday morning.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced the statue’s removal Monday, hailing it as a crucial and necessary step forward for the state.
“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” said Northam, a Democrat. “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.”
The statue of the Confederate general was removed by staff from the Architect of the Capitol from Statuary Hall in Capitol building’s crypt and will be relocated to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. The statue has stood in the Capitol for 111 years, along with Virginia’s other contribution, a statue of George Washington, the first U.S. president.
Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly established a commission that recommended this week that a statue of civil rights leader Barbara Johns replace the one of Lee in the Capitol. The General Assembly still has to approve the statue of Johns as a replacement.
Senator Tim Kaine, Rep. Jennifer Wexton, and a representative from the office of Rep. Donald McEachin, all Democrats representing Virginia, were present for the statue’s removal.
“The Robert E. Lee statue honors a legacy of division, oppression, and racism — a dark period in the history of our Commonwealth and our country,” McEachin and Wexton said in a joint statement. “There is no reason his statue should be one of the two representing Virginia in the U.S. Capitol.”
Calls to remove confederate statues from government property proliferated over the summer in the midst of protests and riots across the country over racial injustice and police brutality. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the removal of eleven other statues of prominent Confederate figures at the Capitol.