Hundreds of people gathered in Richmond, VA erupted in cheers as workers took down the Robert E. Lee statue that stood for more than 130 years.
On Wednesday, September 8, 2021, officials in Richmond, VA, the former capital of the Confederacy, finally took down the massive 12-ton statue of traitor and slavery zealot Robert E. Lee. The country’s largest monument to the Lost Cause was the last Confederate statue along Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue to be removed.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Lawrence West, founder of Black Lives Matter RVA and a regular around the circle, which was reclaimed and informally renamed for Marcus-David Peters, a Black high school teacher who was shot and killed by a Richmond police officer during a mental health crisis in May 2018.
“It’s an incredible moment,” said Richmond City Councilman Andreas Addison. “But I think it’s more of a symbol of the work to do now. It’s the hard steps now that are going to be taken to remove the systemic racism that these have embodied for so long. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
Contrary to the popular myth that Lee was a “kindly general,” he didn’t just viciously beat his own slaves, he also massacred black Union soldiers who tried to surrender at the Battle of the Crater. He paraded survivors through the streets and he refused to accept Ulysses Grant’s condition for a prisoner exchange—that black soldiers be exchanged just like white soldiers—thus leaving his own men to suffer.
New Time Capsule Created
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that artifacts for a new time capsule, crafted by Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale, will be placed in the concrete pedestal which will remain.
Historians believe a copper time capsule was placed in the cornerstone of the Lee pedestal on October 27, 1887. Records from the Library of Virginia suggest that 37 Richmond residents, organizations, and businesses contributed about 60 objects to the capsule, many of which are related to the Confederacy.
On Thursday, September 9 the original time capsule was removed and handed over to the Department of Historic Resources. The new time capsule was put in its place. Should the pedestal be removed later, the time capsule will be buried nearby.
“This monument and its time capsule reflected Virginia in 1890—and it’s time to remove both, so that our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021,” said Governor Northam. “The past 18 months have seen historic change, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause. It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story.”
The new capsule was crafted by Paul DiPasquale who also created Richmond’s Arthur Ashe monument and Virginia Beach’s King Neptune statue.
“The 1887 capsule we will remove this week offers us an incisive bite of time when the Lee Monument was erected. Now in 2021, this capsule gives future Virginians artifacts of the tectonic transition that has happened to us,” said DiPasquale. “The pedestal marks the past and has a new message for the future: we, all of us, are the New Virginia.”