Lee statue, other Confederate monuments could go to Virginia Black History Museum under deal

The deal, pending approval, comes after Richmond city and state officials reached an agreement to transfer ownership of the statues.

The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia has agreed to house a statue and pedestal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as well as several memorials that were removed from the city of Richmond amid Black Lives Matter protests last year. 

The move comes after city and state officials reached an agreement to transfer ownership of the statues, The Washington Post reports. Richmond’s City Council must now approve the deal.

A monument of Robert E. Lee is removed from its site in Charlottesville, Virginia, in July. (Photo: Erin Edgerton/The Daily Progress via AP)

“Entrusting the future of these monuments and pedestals to two of our most respected institutions is the right thing to do,” Mayor Levar Stoney said in a written statement. “They will take the time that is necessary to properly engage the public and ensure the thoughtful disposition of these artifacts.”

Per the report, Marland Buckner, interim executive director of the Black History Museum, said in a release that the institution “takes very seriously the responsibility to manage these objects in ways that ensure their origins and purpose are never forgotten: that is the glorification of those who led the fight to enslave African Americans and destroy the Union.”

Buckner noted that the historic monuments provide an opportunity “to deepen our understanding of an essential element of the American story: the expansion of freedom.”

TheGrio previously reported that officials have debated what to do with Confederate monuments that once peppered or currently stand in the American South. While some statues have been placed in storage, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center is suggesting an alternative fate for a Lee statue that stood in Charlottesville, Virginia, for nearly a century.

The museum plans to melt down the statue and create a new work of art, The Washington Post reports. The city of Charlottesville has been condemned by preservationists after donating its statue of Lee to the Black Museum. Under the deal, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center can do whatever it wants with the materials.

Two groups have reportedly filed suit against the city to prevent the Lee monument from being destroyed.

“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,” said Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker.

The BLM protests last summer over police brutality and racial justice prompted many cities around Virginia to remove Confederate memorials from public spaces. 

“This is not who we are as Virginians, and we are moving on,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “Now, it will be up to the people of Richmond to determine the future of these artifacts.”

Earlier this month, Northam announced that his administration would remove an enormous pedestal that until earlier this year held a statue of Lee in Richmond, The Associated Press reported. After the Lee statue was removed in September, the Democratic governor said the 40-foot-tall pedestal, currently covered in graffiti, would stay.

Per the report, Northam’s administration also announced plans to transfer ownership of the grassy island in the middle of a traffic circle where the statue was located to the city of Richmond.

The move comes about a month before Northam leaves office and Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is sworn in.

“It was important to us that we do it now and before we leave office,” said Alena Yarmosky, Northam’s spokeswoman.

This article contains additional reporting from theGrio’s Matthew Allen.

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