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Virginia’s Democratic House speaker stirs controversy by quietly removing a Robert E. Lee statue

A statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and busts of seven other confederate leaders were quietly removed from the Virginia State Capitol under the cover of night Thursday by order of its Democratic House Leader. 

The 900-pound, bronze Lee statue and busts of Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis and other members of the Confederacy were removed from the old House chamber under orders from House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, a Democrat from Fairfax.

The additional monuments removed were of Fitzhugh Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Joseph E. Johnston and Alexander Stephens, plus a plaque honoring Thomas Bocock. All were placed in an undisclosed location. 

Workmen remove a bust of Joseph E. Johnston before moving on to a statue of Robert E. Lee from the Viriginia State Capitol Thursday, under orders from House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, a Democrat from Fairfax

Workmen haul away a bust of Matthew Fontaine Maury, which was among the monuments removed from the old House chamber

Workmen haul away a bust of Matthew Fontaine Maury, which was among the monuments removed from the old House chamber

Also removed was a bust of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson

Also removed was a bust of Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson 

Busts of Fitzhugh Lee, left, and James E. B "Jeb" Stuart, await boxing as part of the removal

Busts of Fitzhugh Lee, left, and James E. B ‘Jeb’ Stuart, await boxing as part of the removal

News of the removal was observed by some journalists, who agreed not to reveal the news until Friday morning, reported the Washington Post.

All was kept quiet as controversies have arisen around the country over the removal of Confederate monuments, after protests demanded it following the killing of George Floyd. 

Filler-Corn chose to make her move to remove the Lee statue and busts from the Capitol claiming she had the authority under the Virginia constitution and the rules of the House.

As speaker, the Democrat said she can decide on decorations and and furnishings inside those parts of the building controlled by the House. She has appointed a bipartisan advisory group to next decide what should go in place of the monuments.

‘Virginia has a story to tell that extends far beyond glorifying the Confederacy and its participants. The Confederacy’s primary objective in the Civil War was to preserve an ideology that maintained the enslavement of human beings,’ she said. ‘Now is the time to provide context to our Capitol to truly tell the Commonwealth’s whole history.’ 

Filler-Corn chose to make her move to remove the Lee statue and busts from the Capitol claiming she had the authority under the Virginia constitution and the rules of the House. The Democrat is pictured after taking her oath of office earlier this year

Filler-Corn chose to make her move to remove the Lee statue and busts from the Capitol claiming she had the authority under the Virginia constitution and the rules of the House. The Democrat is pictured after taking her oath of office earlier this year

Minority Leader Del. Todd Gilbert, who is a Republican representing Shenandoah, fired back at Filler-corn’s decision, saying he was ‘perplexed’ she would remove the Lee statue.

‘Unlike the Lee monument on Monument Avenue, this statue is a historical marker,’ Gilbert said in an emailed statement, the Post reported.

Gilbert noted in a sarcastic remark that the State Capitol also had been used as the Confederate Capitol building during the Civil War, ‘a fact that should no doubt force the Speaker’s new Advisory Group to recommend that it be razed to the ground.’

Del. Lamont Bagby, a Democrat from Henrico who heads Virginia’s black caucus, responded more favorably to Filler-Corn’s decision.

‘Generations of Virginians, Americans and visitors from around the world have been greeted by these imposing symbols of treason and white supremacy for far too long,’ he said in an email.

Bagby preferred acknowledging the history of the memorials, not honoring it.

Lee was famously defeated at Gettysburg by Union Maj. Gen. George Meade. Historians say Lee’s massed infantry assault across a wide plain was a gross miscalculation in the era of artillery and rifle fire.

Workmen bring plywood to box up the statue of Lee, who was  defeated at Gettysburg by Union Maj. Gen. George Meade. Historians say Lee's massed infantry assault across a wide plain was a gross miscalculation in the era of artillery and rifle fire

Workmen bring plywood to box up the statue of Lee, who was  defeated at Gettysburg by Union Maj. Gen. George Meade. Historians say Lee’s massed infantry assault across a wide plain was a gross miscalculation in the era of artillery and rifle fire

A few weeks after becoming the general in chief of the armies of the Confederate states, Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865. 

A career army officer, Lee married into one of the wealthiest slave-holding families in Virginia – the Custis family of Arlington and descendants of Martha Washington. When Lee’s father-in-law died, he took leave from the U.S. Army to run the struggling estate and met resistance from slaves expecting to be freed. 

The Memorial Day killing of the black 46-year-old father of five in Minneapolis came after white police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.

How Robert E. Lee went from hero to racist icon…

Gen. Robert E. Lee

Gen. Robert E. Lee

THE SOLDIER

A son of American Revolutionary War hero Henry ‘Light-Horse Harry’ Lee, Robert E. Lee graduated second in his class at West Point and distinguished himself in various battles during the U.S.-Mexico War. As tensions heated around southern secession, Lee’s former mentor, Gen. Winfield Scott, offered him a post to lead the Union’s forces against the South. Lee declined, citing his reservations about fighting against his home state of Virginia.

Lee accepted a leadership role in the Confederate forces although he had little experience leading troops. He struggled but eventually became a general in the Confederate Army, winning battles largely because of incompetent Union Gen. George McClellan. 

He would win other important battles against other Union’s generals, but he was often stalled. He was famously defeated at Gettysburg by Union Maj. Gen. George Meade. Historians say Lee’s massed infantry assault across a wide plain was a gross miscalculation in the era of artillery and rifle fire.

A few weeks after becoming the general in chief of the armies of the Confederate states, Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865.

THE SLAVE OWNER

A career army officer, Lee didn’t have much wealth, but he inherited a few slaves from his mother. Still, Lee married into one of the wealthiest slave-holding families in Virginia – the Custis family of Arlington and descendants of Martha Washington. When Lee’s father-in-law died, he took leave from the U.S. Army to run the struggling estate and met resistance from slaves expecting to be freed.

Documents show Lee was a cruel figure with his slaves and encouraged his overseers to severely beat slaves captured after trying to escape. One slave said Lee was one of the meanest men she had ever met.

In a 1856 letter, Lee wrote that slavery is ‘a moral & political evil.’ But Lee also wrote in the same letter that God would be the one responsible for emancipation and blacks were better off in the U.S. than Africa. 

THE LOST CAUSE ICON

After the Civil War, Lee resisted efforts to build Confederate monuments in his honor and instead wanted the nation to move on from the Civil War.

After his death, Southerners adopted ‘The Lost Cause’ revisionist narrative about the Civil War and placed Lee as its central figure. The Last Cause argued the South knew it was fighting a losing war and decided to fight it anyway on principle. It also tried to argue that the war was not about slavery but high constitutional ideals.

As The Lost Cause narrative grew in popularity, proponents pushed to memorialize Lee, ignoring his deficiencies as a general and his role as a slave owner. Lee monuments went up in the 1920s just as the Ku Klux Klan was experiencing a resurgence and new Jim Crow segregation laws were adopted. 

A NEW MEMORY

A generation after the civil rights movement, black and Latino residents began pressuring elected officials to dismantle Lee and other Confederate memorials in places like New Orleans, Houston and South Carolina. The removals partly were based on violent acts committed white supremacists using Confederate imagery and historians questioning the legitimacy of The Lost Cause.

A Gen. Robert E. Lee statue was removed from Lee Circle in New Orleans as the last of four monuments to Confederate-era figures to be removed under a 2015 City Council vote.

The Houston Independent School District also voted in 2016 to rename Robert E. Lee High School, a school with a large Latino population, as Margaret Long Wisdom High School. 

 

Floyd’s resulting death set in motion Black Lives Matter protests, calling for an end to police brutality and systematic racism. 

Calls for removing Confederate symbols also have resulted in the toppling and removal of monuments that were deemed racist and supportive of slavery. 

In Richmond, where the State Capitol is located, a judge is still deciding whether Governor Ralph Northam can proceed with removing a statue of Lee mounted on a horse on the city’s once famed Monument Avenue.  

A descendant of signatories to an 1890 deed that transferred the statue to the state more than a century ago has blocked the move in a lawsuit.  

In Richmond, where the State Capitol is located, a judge is still deciding whether Governor Ralph Northam can proceed with removing a statue of Lee mounted on a horse on the city's once famed Monument Avenue (pictured)

In Richmond, where the State Capitol is located, a judge is still deciding whether Governor Ralph Northam can proceed with removing a statue of Lee mounted on a horse on the city’s once famed Monument Avenue (pictured)

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk