Officials in Virginia and Richmond on Thursday announced an agreement in principle to transfer ownership of the Confederate monuments, now mostly removed, from the city to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center in Virginia.
The transfer would include a huge statue of General Robert E. Lee that was removed earlier this year, along with the 40-foot-high pedestal that held it. Work to remove the pedestal from the site is still ongoing.
As part of the plan announced by Governor Ralph Northam and Mayor of Richmond Levar Stoney, the Black History Museum would work with the Valentine Museum in Richmond and the local community to determine the fate of the memorials.
The deal requires city council approval, which Stoney said he would seek next month. The arrangement would allow the community to take a deliberate approach in their calculation with such division symbols, Stoney said in a statement.
“Handing over the future of these monuments and pedestals to two of our most respected institutions is the right thing to do,” said Stoney.
“Symbols matter, and for too long, Virginia’s most important symbols have celebrated the tragic division of our country and the side that fought to keep the institution of slavery alive by any means possible.” Northam said in a statement. “Now it will be up to our thoughtful museums, informed by the people of Virginia, to determine the future of these artifacts, including the base of the Lee Monument which has taken on special significance as an art of protest.”
The draft plan applies to monuments to Lee, JEB Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Joseph Bryan, Fitzhugh Lee and the Confederate soldiers and sailors, as well as a ceremonial cannon. It does not include a monument to AP Hill, who is buried under the monument, “as discussions with his descendants continue over the relocation of his remains,” the statement said.
Stoney ordered the Confederate monuments removed from the city last summer amid the protest movement that erupted after the murder of George Floyd by police.
The statues have been stored since then, at least part of this period at the town’s wastewater treatment plant. Not all bases have been removed.
Around the same time that the city statues were removed, Northam announced plans to remove the statue of Lee, which was located on state property. But litigation blocked his plans until early this year.
The statue was removed in September, and work to dismantle the massive pedestal began earlier this month.