The Monument Avenue statue of Robert E. Lee, a symbol of Confederate glorification that became the epicenter of calls for racial justice in Richmond, will be removed from its pedestal Wednesday morning.
The 60-foot-tall bronze statue of the Confederate general atop a horse will be removed in pieces 131 years after it was first erected.
The administration of Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that preparations will begin Tuesday evening, when crews will install protective fencing along Monument Avenue and Allen Street. The statue itself will be removed Wednesday morning. On Thursday, crews will remove the plaques at the base of the statue and replace a time capsule believed to be at the site.
In Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, the removals have signaled the rejection of Confederate glorification — a movement that sought to perpetuate discrimination against Black people while denying that a key impetus for the Civil War was the defense of slavery.
Northam had called for the removal of the Lee statue in June 2020, but two legal challenges asserting that the state was trying to operate outside its powers had presented a roadblock.
The granite pedestal on which it sits, which bears paint and graffiti from Richmond’s protests against police brutality and systemic racism, will remain in place for now.
In July 2020, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney led the removal of other Confederate statues on Monument Avenue that were controlled by the city. The city removed statues of Gens. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart as well as naval commander Matthew Fontaine Maury. Protesters pulled down the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis the month before.
“Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy. We are a diverse, open, and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality,” Stoney said in a statement Monday.
The state is planning to designate a public viewing area for pedestrians at Monument Avenue and Stuart Circle. The area will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and access will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The public also can watch the removal through a livestream on the governor’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Starting on Tuesday at 6 p.m., the state will close many of the roads surrounding the statue; they’ll remain closed until the removal work is done.
The closures include Monument Avenue between North Meadow and Lombardy streets; North Allen Avenue between Park Avenue and West Broad Street; and West Grace Street between North Meadow and Lombardy streets.