Early this morning the statue of Robert E. Lee was finally removed from a park in the city of Charlottesville. This issue had brought the awful racist riot on August 17, 2017, which led to Heather Heyer being killed by a racist in a car. A statue of Stonewall Jackson, long located on the city courthouse site, was also removed, as well as later in the day without warning a statue of Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea. The statues are going into city storage with the ultimate destination of these statues still to be determined. The statue of Lee in Richmond remains in place, more seriously in place. It took a change in Virginia state law in 2020 to allow the City of Charlottesville to remove these statues.
I note that the statue of Lee in Charlottesville, an impressive piece that I have always thought looked pretty impressive, was only put up in 1926, with the photo of the event showing what it was really about, a manifestation of Jim Crow, with many people in the photo of that inauguration in full white robes of the KKK. Really.
I have a family link to all this. It is fact that Lee himself opposed putting up any statues to himself. His official view was that war was over and people needed to move on. This was shown in two letters he wrote. One was to a group who wanted to put a statue of him at Gettysburg. Lee said no. The other was a letter to my relative Gen. Thomas Lafayette Rosser, who also was supporting a statue of him somewhere, and Lee said no, in that letter laying out this “move on” argument. Ironically Gen. Rosser is buried in Charlottesville off the same street, Market Street, where Lee’s statue long sat. On Rosser’s grave it is noted that he was a true follower of Lee.