The Robert E. Lee statue that once stood at the U.S. Capitol in Virginia has been removed, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday morning (Dec. 21). According to the governor, the Confederate general will be replaced by a statue of Barbara Rose Johns, a late activist who played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement.
“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Northam said in the statement. “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.”
According to CNN, Lee’s was one of 13 statues in the Crypt of the Capitol, representing the 13 original colonies. The Virginian slave owner’s memorial had stood there since 1909, “44 years after the Confederacy rebelled against the United States and was defeated,” Northam’s statement added.
Over the summer, busts and statues of Lee and other Confederate soldiers were taken down in Virginia’s statehouse and across the country in recognition of racial justice and anti-police brutality protests. Northam has also been pushing for the removal of Lee’s statue in Richmond’s Monument Avenue.
Born in 1935 in New York City, Barbara Rose Johns was a niece of one of the Fathers of the Civil Rights Movement, Vernon Johns, and became a pioneering force in her own right. At the age of 16, Johns organized a walkout at her high school to protest “the overcrowded and inferior conditions of the all-Black school compared to those of white students,” a release from Northam’s office read.
“Historians consider Johns’ protest a pivotal moment that launched the desegregation movement in America,” it added.
On Twitter, Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton responded to Lee’s statue removal, calling it a “historic & overdue moment.”
“I’m proud the work [Virginia Rep. Donald McEachin] & I started a year ago led to this,” she tweeted. “We deserve to be represented by a figure who truly embodies Virginia’s values.”