Charlottesville Museum Is Melting Down a Confederate Monument

Charlottesville Museum Is Melting Down a Monument of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as Judge Gives Green Light.

Jul 21, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Charlottesville Museum
The transfer of the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Photo: John McDonnell

 

Charlottesville Museum is melting down a monument raised as a memorial to Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The museum can implement this action because a Virginia judge gave permission. In this way, the judge rejected the lawsuit that fought for the preservation of the statue. The statue is also the place where the “Unite the Right” protest took place – in 2017 when counter-protester Heather Heyer died.

 

Charlottesville Museum to Use Melted Material for New Artwork

The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

 

Charlottesville’s Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (JSAAHC) won a case for melting down almost a hundred years old monument. Also, the center wanted to use the melted material for new public creations. When the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation and the Ratcliffe Foundation found out about this, they wanted to stop the process. So, they filed a suit against it.

 

These two organizations submitted a request for control of the monument, but it got  rejected. The state excluded the Ratcliffe Foundation from the process, no longer has a valid business standing as of 2015. Then, just recently, a district court justice declared that the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation’s central arguments were unfounded.

 

Robert Edward Lee. Via Wikipedia

 

Why? The organization filed the request to control the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee too late. But the judge did not completely rule out the possibility of the organisation bringing a lawsuit against Charlottesville, for allegedly infringing Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

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The Lawsuit as a Disctraction?

A statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, that has since been taken down (photo via Flickr)

 

“The lawsuit always felt like an attempt to create a distraction from the overall project”,  Andrea Douglas, executive director of the JSAAHC. “Our goal really is to engage in a conversation about public space—and how one makes those public spaces in the most democratic way possible”. American sculptor Henry Shrady created the monument in 1917. Then, Italian artist continued the process.

 

This happened when Shrady died in 1922, and he managed to complete it two years later. The city council, which consists of five members, voted by a majority of three in favor of removing  this monument from public spaces. The judgement was then contested in court by numerous litigants, including the ancestors of the statue’s donor, who said that removing the item infringed on a state statute that safeguards veterans’ memorials.

 

PENSACOLA, FL – AUGUST 20: A Confederate monument featuring an 8-foot statue of a Confederate soldier. PHOTO BY JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

 

In 2019, a judge sided with the plaintiffs and issued a permanent injunction preventing the removal of the memorial. That ruling was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court in April of 2021, and the injunction was lifted. The Lee monument was finally taken down on July 10, 2021.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.