Virginia lawmakers ask governor to remove state's Robert E. Lee statue from US Capitol

Virginia lawmakers ask governor to remove state's Robert E. Lee statue from US Capitol

Two Virginia Democrats are calling on the state’s governor to remove Virginia’s Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue from the U.S. Capitol. 

Reps. Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonDemocratic lawmaker calls for Peace Corps, Americorps volunteers to be eligible for unemployment benefits Black voters propel Biden to big wins in Virginia, NC, Alabama Biden notches major win in Virginia primary MORE and A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinHouse Democrats seek to codify environmental inequality mapping tool  House coronavirus bill aims to prevent utility shutoffs OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Oil prices jump amid partial reopenings | Bill aims to block fossil fuel firms from coronavirus aid | Tribes to receive some coronavirus aid after court battle MORE both requested that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) prioritize removing Lee as the state’s representative in the Capitol in his 2020 legislative session. The representatives said there are “countless” other choices to represent Virginia.

“These statutes aimed to rewrite Lee’s reputation from that of a cruel slave owner and Confederate General to portraying him as a kind man and reluctant war hero who selflessly served his home state of Virginia,” they wrote. 

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Every state nominates two statues to be shown in the building as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. Virginia’s statue is featured in the Crypt, which tour groups typically go through.

The representatives listed a few different choices for the statue in their letter, including civil rights leader Oliver Hill and 19th-century thinker Booker T. Washington. They also cited Florida and Arkansas recently switching out Confederate and Reconstruction statues for other people to represent the state. 

“As Virginians, we have a responsibility to not only learn from but also confront our history,” they wrote in their letter. “As part of this responsibility, we must strive for a more complete telling of history by raising up the voices, stories, and memories of minorities and people of color.”

The politicians said Lee was chosen between 1900 and 1930, when other Confederate monuments were created across the country.

In order to change the statue, the General Assembly would have to pass legislation that would be signed into law by the governor.

The 2019 election resulted in Virginia’s Democrats gaining control of the state legislature for the first time since 1994.