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VMI votes to remove Stonewall Jackson statue after allegations of racism

VMI votes to remove Stonewall Jackson statue after allegations of racism
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Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) Board of Visitors voted Thursday to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson after Gov. Ralph Northam launched an investigation into allegations of racism by current and former Black cadets.

The board did not clarify where the statue of the Confederate general who previously taught at the school would go, The Washington Post reported. But the board’s chairman, Bill Boland, said it may be taken to the New Market, a Civil War battlefield where VMI cadets fought during the war.

“I would rather move the statue once rather than twice,” Boland said, according to the Post, adding that the administration should make a suggestion for where it moves. 

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The statue of Jackson has stood in front of student barracks for years, and up until a few years ago, students were mandated to salute the statue when passing. Black alumni advocated for the statue to be removed this year through a petition, which the administration at first rejected.  

VMI’s superintendent Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III dismissed the calls to remove Confederate monuments and rename buildings that are currently named after Confederate leaders over the summer.

“We want to erase any hint of racism at VMI, in our communities, and in our country,” he said but added that VMI’s past was “intertwined with the history of Virginia and the Civil War.

Peay specifically defended Jackson as “a staunch Christian” and “a military genius” in his July statement.

The statue’s removal at the Lexington, Va., school comes after The Washington Post reported earlier this month on first-hand accounts of racism at the school from cadets. 

The allegations sparked Northam, the Democratic Virginia governor who graduated from the institute in 1981, to launch an investigation into the “structural racism” at the school. Amid the controversy, Peay resigned this week.