A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from the U.S. Capitol early Monday, a move Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam hailed as an “important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country.”
Virginia provided the Lee statue to the Capitol. In its place will stand a statue of civil rights icon Barbara Rose Johns.
“The Confederacy is a symbol of Virginia’s racist and divisive history, and it is past time we tell our story with images of perseverance, diversity, and inclusion,” Northam said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing a trailblazing young woman of color represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, where visitors will learn about Barbara Johns’ contributions to America and be empowered to create positive change in their communities just like she did.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had already relocated the Lee statue out of the National Statuary Hall, where states display statues. Pelosi heralded the removal of the Lee statue, which took place around 3 a.m. ET Monday. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and a representative of Northam’s office were present for the removal.
“The removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee and its forthcoming replacement by a tribute to Barbara Johns, a civil rights pioneer and pride of Virginia, is welcome news. The halls of Congress are the very heart of our Democracy, and the statues within the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans,” Pelosi said in a statement of her own Monday.
In June, Pelosi called for the removal of Confederate statues from the Capitol.
“Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to the Joint Committee on the Library at the time.