After having been on display for the past 100 years, the statue of Robert E. Lee, a general for the Southern Confederacy during the American Civil War, was removed from its place in the Capitol Building, Washington DC, last night following a unanimous state commission vote for its removal earlier this year.
Louise Lucas, a state senator in Virginia and leader of the commission, said that its presence ran contrary to the identity of the state.
"Confederate images do not represent who we are in Virginia, that's why we voted unanimously to remove this statue," Lucas said. "I am thrilled that this day has finally arrived, and I thank Governor Northam and the Commission for their transformative work."
The statue of Lee had accompanied a statue of George Washington, another notable Virginian, since 1909 in representing the state. Every state in the Union has two statues in the Capital to represent its state’s legacy and history, and Lee’s removal means another statue will likely soon go up.
The commission which voted for Lee’s removal also submitted a recommendation to replace the general with the figure of Barbara Johns—a 1951 protestor who fought for better conditions at her all-black school.
General Lee, a controversial figure in American history, has for some been a symbol of the struggle between state individuality and national sovereignty. For others he represents the south’s struggle to continue the institution of slavery.
Governor Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, believes that the statue's removal represents a step in the right direction—one that would disavow ties with a record of racial conflict.
"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," Northam said.