Black museum wants to melt down Robert E. Lee statue to make new art

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center raises $500,000 from donors in bid for statue that once stood in Charlottesville, Virginia

For more than a year, officials have debated what to do with Confederate monuments that once peppered or currently stand in the American South for decades.

While some statues have been placed in storage, one Black museum is suggesting an alternative fate for a Robert E. Lee statue that took up space in Charlottesville, Virginia for nearly a century.

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center in Charlottesville, which has put in a bid to purchase the statue, has proposed melting the sculpture down and transforming it into new art, the Washington Post reports. Donors have committed more than $500,00 toward the effort, executive director Andrea Douglas said.

The monument of Robert E. Lee is removed on Saturday, July 10, 2021 in Charlottesville, Va. (Erin Edgerton/The Daily Progress via AP)

The museum states that it would like to melt the statues down and repurpose the bronze into new artwork that can be displayed in the city. Gregory Downs, a historian at the University of California at Davis stated that the museum’s proposal is an inventive way to “confront the past and help people better understand the past.”

The idea follows Charlotteville officials’ announcement last month that the city is looking for new owners of the Lee statue and a sculpture of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, another infamous Confederal leader.

Both statues were removed from their pedestals in July after years of fighting over their placements.

Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker was present at the removal and spoke about the significance of taking it down.

“Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain,” Walker said.

In 2017, hundreds of white nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members, and neo-Nazi demonstrators descended on “Unite the Right” rally, to protest the proposed removal of the General Lee statue, as reported by Vox. Many gathered outside of the statue with lit torches. Later during the protest, a Neo-Nazi drove his car drove through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person in the process.

The driver, James Fields Jr., was convicted on federal charges for killing Heather Heyer and injuring several others, as reported by NPR. He received a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Since then, several confederate statues have been taken down in numerous cities. This past June, a statue of confederate general Alfred Mouton was removed from the city square in Lafayette, Louisiana, as reported by the Associated Press. Several spectators gathered and cheered as the statue that stood for 99 years was taken down with a crane.

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