Richmond, Virginia to Remove Largest Confederate Statue of Robert E. Lee Remaining in U.S.

A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will be removed from Richmond, Virginia this week.

"Virginia's largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week," Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said in a statement on Monday. "This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a Commonwealth."

Located on Monument Avenue, it's the largest Confederate statue in the United States—according to a news release from the state.

The statue will come down on Wednesday, September 8. Its removal comes 131 years after it was erected. It will be placed in storage at a state-owned facility until a decision is made on what exactly to do with it.

"Protective fencing will be installed to ensure the safety of the crews removing the statue and those who choose to view it in person," the state said Monday. "This is necessary due to the statue's location in a residential neighborhood and its size. Limited viewing opportunities will be available on a first‐come, first‐served basis."

The 40-foot granite pedestal which currently supports the statue of Lee will remain at its location for now. The pedestal's final arrangement will be determined following a "community-driven effort to reimagine Monument Avenue" spearheaded by the city and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The statue's removal comes after a lengthy legal battle. Northam first ordered the monument to be removed in June 2020 following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Floyd's death sparked a nationwide reckoning of racial injustice and police brutality. More than 160 Confederate symbols were removed in 2020 after Floyd's death, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Richmond Virginia To Remove Lee Statute
A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will be removed from Richmond, Virginia this week. In this photo, a fence is installed around the Lee monument on January 25, 2021. Eze Amos/Getty Images

In June, the Supreme Court of Virginia heard arguments in two lawsuits that challenged Northam's order to remove the statue depicting Lee. One suit was filed by a group of Richmond residents who own property near the statue and the other was filed by William Gregory, a descendant of signatories to the 1890 deed that transferred the statue and the land it sits on to the state.

Gregory argued that in the 1890 deed, the state agreed to "faithfully guard" and "affectionately protect" the Lee monument.

But last week, the Virginia Supreme Court sided with state officials and ruled the statue could be removed.

Northam called the decision a "tremendous win for the people of Virginia."

"Our public memorials are symbols of who we are and what we value. When we honor leaders who fought to preserve a system that enslaved human beings, we are honoring a lost cause that has burdened Virginia for too many years," the governor said.