Virginia will remove a statue honoring Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Richmond “as soon as possible,” Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday, saying the statue
“Today, we’re here to be honest about our past, and talk about our future,” Northam said, adding, “we have to confront where we’ve been in order to shape where we’re going.”
The statue will be placed into storage, where it will remain until discussions between government leaders and the community map out its future, Northam said.
“In Virginia, for more than 400 years, we have set high ideals about freedom and equality,” the governor said, “but we have fallen short of many of them.”
Lee will be removed from Richmond’s Monument Avenue, which is lined with statues of Confederate generals. Of all the monuments, Lee’s looms the largest – and unlike the others, it is owned by the state, a six-story monument on a 100-foot island of land the state also owns.
It’s up to the city of Richmond to decide what to do with the other statues; it’s in the process of determining what their fate will be.
“I know Richmond is going to do the right thing,” Northam said – prompting Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, standing behind Northam, to nod his head vigorously.
As he discussed the landmark moment in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, Northam also cited Virginia’s historic role in the American Revolution, including the famous call, “Give me liberty, or give me death,” from Patrick Henry — who also served as a governor of Virginia.
“But there’s a whole lot more to the story,” Northam said, adding that the ideals of freedom and liberty “did not apply to everyone — not then, and not now.”
He noted that as the new country was taking shape, one of its largest slave markets was operating in Richmond, where men, women and children were sold for profit.
“It’s time to put an end to the Lost Cause, and fully embrace the righteous cause,” Stoney said at Thursday’s news conference. “It’s time to replace the racist symbols of oppression and inequality – symbols that have literally dominated our landscape.”
“It’s time to heal, ladies and gentlemen,” he added.