Richmond, VA – The Associated Press is reporting that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) is set to announce the removal of a Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond. The monument was erected in 1890 and sits at the center of a roundabout on Monument Avenue. It’s the largest of the statues on the stretch of road.
This is not the first time that a monument to Lee has come under scrutiny in Virginia. In 2019, removal of a monument to Lee was blocked by a judge due to a state historical statute. This statue was in Charlottesville.
According to the AP article, Northam wants to remove the statue from the pedestal and put it into storage until a new location can be identified. The AP cited several individuals across the state that celebrated the news of the removal of the statue. Richmond was the capital of the confederacy, and many historical markers are across the area, referencing that history.
Those who support the removal of the monument say that it must go because of what the memorial represents. They claim it represents slavery and oppression.
Lee’s history is plagued by a lot of questionable things. He is known for his stellar education at West Point, finishing second in his class. He’s known for his fierceness on the battlefield. Yes, history also tells us that he owned slaves.
I certainly understand the viewpoint of those who talk about the civil war and the slave issue. I am not an advocate of slavery and certainly an advocate for treating anyone equally, no matter the color of their skin. I would argue, though, that the monument has two sides of history.
The alternate side of history I speak of is that of our nation’s history. This monument shows that our country, while it has not always agreed, has always been pushed toward the greater good. Slavery was wrong, but thanks to President Lincoln, he set our country on the proper course. In doing so, he paid the price with his life.
Just because we remove the statue, it does not remove the history that remains behind. Those things will always remain, but we shouldn’t forget them. There’s a reason for history.
I’m reminded of a quote from Maya Angelou, a black poet who lived the last of her days not far from my hometown. She once said, “I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”
Throughout our history, there are those times that we may not be proud of what happened in our country. There are times where the right thing was not necessarily done. We take those times to remind us that we can be better and that we are better.
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