State Watch

Virginia governor seeking to remove Robert E. Lee statue from US Capitol

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) filed a request for a bill that would replace Virginia’s statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the United States Capitol building. 

The governor filed a drafting request for legislation that would outline a process to remove the statue on Monday, Dec. 23, in addition to choosing a replacement for the confederate leader, Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky confirmed to The Hill in a statement. The state has two statues in the National Sanctuary Hall Collection in the Capitol.   

The filing came after two Virginia Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Jennifer Wexton and A. Donald McEachin, both requested that Northam prioritize removing the Lee statue as one of the state’s statues in the Capitol. 

“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,” Wexton and McEachin wrote in a letter last week.

“As Virginians, we have a responsibility to not only learn from but also confront our history,” they added. “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.”

Yarmosky said Northam’s office had discussed removing the statue with both of the lawmakers’ offices “and we look forward to continuing to work with them and all others who are committed to making Virginia open, inclusive, and equitable.”

The National Statuary Hall Collection is made up of 100 statues honoring two people from each state. Virginia is also represented by George Washington in the Capitol Crypt, which frequently hosts tour groups. 

Wexton and McEachin also recommended a number of Virginians who could replace Lee in their letter last month, including educator and orator Booker T. Washington and civil rights attorney Oliver Hill. 

Other states have also removed their Confederate statues in the Capitol. Florida replaced Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune in 2018.

Updated at 5:56 p.m.

Tags Donald McEachin Jennifer Wexton

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