WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJHL) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced Monday that the Commonwealth’s statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee has been removed from the nation’s capitol.
A release from the governor’s office says the statue was removed overnight.
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton were present at the removal of the statue, as well as a representative from Northam’s office.
The release says each state may display two statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection.
Lee’s statue had stood in the hall for 111 years as one of Virginia’s statues. Virginia’s other statue is a depiction of George Washington.
Both statues were added to the hall in 1909.
“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Northam said in the release. “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.”
The release says Northam signed legislation in 2020 that established the Commission for Historical Statue in the United States Capitol, which was “charged with studying the removal and replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue.”
On July 24, all eight members of the commission voted to recommend the removal of the Lee statue.
Ownership of the statue will be accepted by the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond, according to the release.
“Confederate images do not represent who we are in Virginia, that’s why we voted unanimously to remove this statue,” Senator Louise Lucas said in the release. “I am thrilled that this day has finally arrived, and I thank Governor Northam and the Commission for their transformative work.”
The Lee statue will be replaced with a statue of civil rights icon Barbara Rose Johns, following a decision by the commission on December 16, 2020.
The release says the commission selected Barbara Johns after receiving input form Virginians in multiple hearings. Johns led a student walkout in Farmville as a teenager in 1951 to protest inferior conditions at the all-Black Robert Russa Morton High School.
“As of this morning, Virginia will no longer honor the Confederacy in the halls of the United States Capitol,” said Delegate Jeion Ward, who sponsored legislation creating the Commission. “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.”
A sculptor for the new statue cannot by commissioned until the General Assembly approves the replacement.
Johns would be the only teenager immortalized in the hall.
The release says Northam has budgeted $500,000 to replace the Lee statue.