Robert E. Lee Statue Will Be Melted Down Into New Art for African American Heritage Center

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, will be melted down into new art for an African American heritage center, according to the Associated Press.

The Charlottesville City Council decided to donate the statue to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center with a unanimous vote early Tuesday morning, The Daily Progress reported.

The school's proposal was the only local proposal for ownership out of five, with only one other being from Virginia, the Associated Press reported. In the proposal, which is called "Swords Into Plowshares," the school plans to melt down the statue to "turn them into plowshares or implements of social good," Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School, said, according to The Daily Progress.

After it is complete, the new art will be given to the city so it can be put on public land, AP reported.

"Recontextualization is not enough," the museum said in the proposal, emphasizing that no matter where the statue went, it would continue to be "an icon of violent white supremacy."

The proposal received nearly 30 letters of support from individuals and organizations, such as the Descendants of Enslaved Communities at the University of Virginia, descendants of Monticello's enslaved community, the Equal Justice Initiative, and the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, according to The Daily Progress.

"Our hope with 'Swords into Plowshares' is to create something that transforms what was once toxic in our public space into something beautiful that can be more reflective of our entire community's social values," said Douglas. "We're giving people opportunities to engage with our own narratives and our own histories. This project offers a road map for other communities to do the same."

The proposal had been one of five, the other four from the Ratcliffe Foundation in Russel County, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, a private citizen in Utopia, Texas, and the LAXART museum in Los Angeles, according to AP.

Confederate Statue, Melted, Public Art, Proposal
The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville, Virginia, will be melted to “turn them into plowshares or implements of social good,” Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School, said. The new art will then be given to the city to be displayed on public land. In this photo, workers remove a statue of Lee from Market Street Park on July 10, 2021, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Lee statue and another of Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson were removed on the same day in July. The city received six proposals from entities interested in taking one of both of them, according to The Daily Progress.

The Black-led heritage center's news release also said that a "community engagement process" will inform the public art project, for which $590,000 has already been raised.

The council voted only on the disposition of the Lee statue Tuesday morning, the newspaper reported. Its removal this summer came more than five years after racial justice activists renewed a push to take it down, drawing opposition from racist groups that culminated in the deadly 2017 rally. Virginia's highest court ruled the city could remove the Lee and Jackson statues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Confederate Statues, Charlottesville, Proposal, Art
Besides the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was also removed. The city has also received proposals on that statue. In this photo, workers remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Market Street Park July 10, 2021, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Win McNamee/Getty Images