(Updated 10:40 a.m.) This morning (Tuesday) a construction crane at the intersection of Prince and Washington Streets took down the Appomattox statue honoring Confederate soldiers that has been the object of criticism and controversy for decades.
The statue had been the object of criticism from those who said it represented a celebration of the city’s legacy of racism and slavery. For years, a state law prohibited the moving or removal of monuments to veterans, which grouped in specifically monuments honoring the Confederacy, but in April Gov. Ralph Northam signed new legislation authorizing localities to remove statues honoring the Confederacy.
“Some said this day would never come,” City Councilman John Chapman, who also runs the Manumission Tour Company covering the city’s black history, said on Facebook. “The confederate statue Appomattox is starting to be taken down. We, our community made this happen. I got the receipts to show it.”
Mayor Justin Wilson said he had no idea what happens to the statue now, saying the United Daughters of Confederacy (UDC) — which owns the statue — were the ones who took it down rather than have the city remove it.
The move comes amid nationwide protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of Minneapolis man George Floyd’s death. The UDC building in Richmond was recently targeted in protests on Sunday (May 31) which also vandalized Confederate Statues across the former capital of the Confederacy.
“This has been a policy for several years, and there were folks in the community pursuing this for decades,” Wilson said. “For us, the effort is more than just a statue, it’s making sure that we tell the broader scope of our history. For so long, the reaction to this statue has been… that we’ve only told a narrow portion of our history.”
Wilson said the removal of the monument is part of a larger effort to tell the more inclusive history of the city, which includes the acquisition of the Freedom House and the city’s participation in the Equal Justice Initiative, which memorializes victims of lynchings.
William “Bill” Euille, who was the first African-American mayor in Alexandria, protested against the statue when he was a student at T.C. Williams high school in the 1960s and helped lead discussions in 2015 that led to the city officially calling for the statue’s removal.
“More than 50 years ago, four high schools came together with religious and community leaders and marched on the statue in protest demanding its removal, and then we went to City Hall to lobby City Council,” Euille said. “Unfortunately, we were not successful, however, the call has continued through all these many years. It’s about persistence and preservation, and in the midst of racial protests and riots across America, we can now rejoice in victory and inclusiveness. Many thanks to city leaders.”
Photo via Justin Wilson/Twitter