The governor of Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam, announced that the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee has been removed from the U.S. Capitol Building. A statue of civil rights leader Barbara Johns will soon be put up instead. Every state has the right to have two statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the Capitol. Lee’s statue has been there since 1909, along with the statue of George Washington.
Interestingly, Governor Northam was the center of a racial controversy last year. A 1984 yearbook of the Eastern Virginia Medical School showed Northam in a photo where one person was in a “blackface” while another was wearing a garb reminiscent of the KKK. A 1981 photo from the Virginia Military Institute college yearbook displayed Northam’s photo together with the nickname “Coonman,” which is a racist slur. Northam later apologized for the 1984 photo and refused calls for resignation from his post as governor. In a 2017 political campaign, it was revealed that his family had owned slaves back in the day.
Meanwhile, Delegate Jelon Ward showered praise on the work done by Barbara Johns. “When I think of Barbara Johns, I am reminded of how brave she was at such a young age. It’s time for us to start singing the songs of some of the Virginians who have done great things that have gone unnoticed. This is a proud moment for our Commonwealth, and I am humbled to have been a part of it,” he said in a statement. Once the General Assembly approves the statue replacement, a sculptor will be commissioned. A budget of $500,000 has been set aside for this purpose. If carried out, Johns will become the only teenager that is represented in the statue collection.
Speaker of the House Democrat Nancy Pelosi praised the removal of Lee’s statue, calling it “welcome news.” During Pelosi’s first term as House Speaker, she had relocated a statue of Robert E. Lee in the National Statuary Hall with a statue of Rosa Parks. Pelosi calls the confederate statues “homages to hate” and argues that this is why she and others have been working to remove them across the country. The House Speaker has also been trying to rename American military bases named after confederate leaders through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Democrat Elizabeth Warren introduced an amendment to the NDAA for the fiscal year 2021 that is aimed at removing all symbols, monuments, displays, paraphernalia, and names that honor the confederacy in any manner. Warren argued that America is a racist country and that removal of these symbols is necessary.
President Trump reacts
President Trump lashed out at Warren’s amendment of renaming military bases. “It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations. Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!” he said in a tweet.
Back in June, a poll conducted by Washington Post/ABC showed that around 52 percent of Americans opposed the removal of statues honoring Confederate generals, with around 43 percent supporting such a move. Politically, 80 percent of Republicans opposed the statue removal while 74 percent of Democrats supported it. Racially, around 60 percent of white people and more than 50 percent of the Hispanic population did not agree with removing the Confederate statues. In contrast, over three-quarters of black people wanted the statues gone.