The statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from the US Capitol early on Monday and will be relocated to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.
The statue was one of two from the state of Virginia’s contribution to the National Statutory Hall collection in the Capitol, the other being that of the nation’s first president George Washington.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said on Monday that Lee’s statue will be replaced by a statue honoring civil rights icon Barbara Johns.
“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Northam said in a statement. “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. 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.”
At just 16, Johns led a walk out of 450 students at Robert Russa Moton High School, an all-Black school in Farmville, Va. in 1951 to protest the unequal distribution of resources between white and black schools.
The NAACP sued on behalf of the students. Their case became one of the five combined three years later to form the landmark anti-segregation Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education.
“Before the sit-ins in Greensboro, before the Montgomery bus boycott, there was the student strike here in 1951, led by Barbara Johns. When the students saw what was being provided to white students in this community at Farmville High School, there was certainly a recognition that our community was not meeting the needs of the students here,” Cameron Patterson, who heads a museum on the grounds of the former school told NPR.
The statue of Lee is the latest monument honoring a controversial historical figure to be removed as the country continues to grapple with its long history of racial injustice and police brutality.